What to Know About Your Treatment Options for Ewing Sarcoma

Doctor speaking to a woman in an office

Treatments for Ewing sarcoma depend on the type and stage of the cancer and the size and location of the tumor. Most Ewing sarcomas occur in the flat or long flat bones of arms and legs, but they can occur in any bone or soft tissue. The doctor also considers your age and general health when recommending a treatment plan.

Many people with Ewing sarcoma want to learn all they can about the cancer and the treatment choices so they can take an active part in decisions about their care. You are likely to have many questions and concerns. Your doctor is the best person to answer your questions. Here are some questions you might want to talk to ask your doctor.

  • What are the treatment choices?

  • How successful will each choice be?

  • What are the risks and side effects of each treatment?

Because Ewing sarcoma usually happens in young children and adolescents, the decisions about treatment are sometimes made by the parents, with permission from the child. The doctor may recommend more than one treatment for your child and ask you to decide which one you would like to follow. This can be a hard decision for you to make. There is often more than one “right answer” with different risks and benefits. It is possible that your doctor will discuss participation in a clinical trial. If you are the parent of a child with Ewing sarcoma, it is important for you to take the time you need to make a decision that is best for your child. Talking to more than one doctor may help you reach a decision about how best to proceed.

There are three ways to treat Ewing sarcoma.  

  • Chemotherapy

  • Radiation

  • Surgery 

These treatments are either local or systemic. Local treatments remove, destroy, or control the cancer cells in one area of the body. Surgery and radiation therapy are local treatments and an essential part of the successful treatment of Ewing sarcoma. Systemic treatments are used to destroy or control cancer cells throughout the entire body. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment when you get it through an IV or in a pill. When local treatments alone are used in Ewing sarcoma, most patients will relapse at sites distant from where the cancer started, so both chemotherapy and local treatments are always recommended for Ewing sarcoma. The choice of surgery, radiation therapy, or both for local treatment depends on the location and size of the tumor, though surgery is the preferred local treatment when limb function can be preserved due to a lower potential of long-term side effects compared to radiation.