Ewing’s sarcomas can grow in bones or soft tissues. There are three different kinds of sarcomas with big names, but they are similar when looked at under a microscope. The three types of Ewing’s sarcomas are: Ewing’s sarcoma, extraosseous Ewing’s sarcoma (EES) and primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET). These tumors can grow in arms, legs or the middle parts of your body, such as your hip bones.
About 200 children and teens in the U.S. are diagnosed with one of these tumors every year. Most of them (almost 90%) have a Ewing’s sarcoma in the bone. Some children get Ewing’s sarcoma at ages 5 to 10, but most develop this type of cancer after the age of 11. In the last twenty years, treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma has changed and improved. The only option used to be removing the part of the body with the tumor (called amputation)
Now, doctors usually use chemotherapy followed by surgery or radiation. All children or teens with Ewing’s sarcoma need surgery. Sometimes amputation is necessary. But, there are really great substitute limbs (called prostheses) nowadays, and losing an arm or leg is not as bad as it sounds. People who have an arm or leg removed can still ski, hike or drive a car (when they are old enough to get a driver’s license)! There are even limbs specially designed for sports like running or basketball.
Doctors sometimes remove the bone with the tumor and replace it with bone from a donor. Substitute bones are made from cobalt, chrome or steel. This is called limb salvage. Chemotherapy (drugs that kill cancer cells) is always given to kids with Ewing’s sarcoma since this type of cancer responds well to it. Radiation is used for children whose tumors cannot be completely removed with surgery.