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What is a Ewing Tumor?

A Ewing [YOO-ing] tumor is a very rare kind of cancer that most often affects teenagers. Only about 225 Ewing tumors are diagnosed each year in North America. These tumors can grow in the bones or soft tissues in almost any part of the body, including the arms, legs, pelvis, chest, or head. Ewing tumors are also known as Ewing sarcomas [sahr-KOH-muhs].

Ewing tumors usually have few symptoms, but they can cause pain and swelling near the tumor. Imaging tests and a biopsy are needed to diagnose Ewing tumors and to plan the best treatment. A combination of treatments is usual for this kind of tumor. The outlook for patients with a Ewing tumor depends on many things. About 2 out of every 3 people with this kind of tumor become long-term survivors of the disease.


Ewing tumors might not cause any symptoms. When there are symptoms, the most common include:

  • Pain or swelling near the tumor
  • Fever without a known cause
  • A broken bone without a known cause or because of everyday activity
  • A lump that might feel soft and warm

Other possible symptoms are fatigue, weight loss, weakness, shortness of breath, and limping.

When to See a Doctor

See your child’s doctor if they have symptoms of a Ewing tumor.


No one knows what causes Ewing tumors, but some people are more likely to have this kind of cancer, such as:

  • Teenagers. It usually happens to teenagers, but sometimes adults and younger children get Ewing tumors.
  • Boys. Boys are more likely than girls to have Ewing tumors.
  • People who are white are more likely to have Ewing tumors than are Asian-Americans, African-Americans, or Native Americans.

Diagnosis and Tests

Many tests are needed to diagnose and decide the best treatment for a Ewing tumor.

To start, your child might have different kinds of imaging tests, such as x-ray pictures, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and bone scans. These tests let doctors see exactly where the tumor is and if the tumor has spread to other parts of your child’s body.

Next, your child will have a biopsy [BAHY-op-see] of their tumor. A biopsy is a procedure to remove a small piece of the tumor for examination under a microscope. This helps doctors decide what types of treatment will be best for your child. Sometimes, a biopsy is done with a hollow needle inserted into the tumor. Or, your child’s doctor might remove part of the tumor through a small cut in your child’s skin. Your child will get pain medicine before their biopsy.

Certain kinds of blood tests also might be done to evaluate your child’s overall health and learn more about the tumor.


Your child will probably need a combination of treatments for a Ewing tumor. This can include:

  • Surgery. Surgery may be performed to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
  • Chemotherapy [kee-moh-THER-uh-pee] (medicine to kill cancer cells). Chemotherapy usually is given through a needle placed in a vein in your child’s arm.
  • Radiation therapy (x-ray treatment).
  • Other kinds of targeted therapy. These will depend on the specific characteristics of your child’s tumor.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be given before or after surgery. These treatments can help shrink your child’s tumor, destroy parts of the tumor that surgery cannot remove, and kill tumor cells that have spread to other parts of your child’s body. Your child might need many treatment sessions with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both over a period of weeks or months.

Treatments for a Ewing tumor can cause complications (other medical problems). Be sure to talk with your child’s doctor about treatment complications. Medicine can help with some complications.

Your child’s chances of recovery from a Ewing tumor depend on many factors, such as:

  • Where the tumor is, how big it is, and whether it has spread to other parts of your child’s body
  • Whether your child has had cancer before
  • Your child’s age and sex
  • Results of certain tests that show how likely the tumor will  spread

Sometimes, a Ewing tumor can recur (come back) after treatment and extra or different treatment is needed.


Ewing tumors cannot be prevented. However, early diagnosis and complete treatment increase your child’s chances of a successful recovery.

In some cases, Ewing tumors might be inherited (passed down in families). If your child has a Ewing tumor, talk with their doctor about genetic tests for your family.

Ewing tumors are rare tumors of the bones and soft tissues, but they can grow almost anywhere in the body. The tumors usually happen to teenagers, although younger children and adults sometimes develop them. This type of tumor might not cause noticeable symptoms.

Diagnosis is based on imaging tests and a biopsy. Treatments for Ewing tumors include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and new targeted treatments. Early diagnosis and treatment result in better outcomes for people with a Ewing tumor.