What Is Ewing Sarcoma?
To help you understand what is happening when you have cancer, it helps to know how your body works normally. Our bodies are made up of tiny building blocks called cells. Normal or healthy cells grow and multiply when the body needs them, and die out when the body does not need them.
Cancer is made up of abnormal or unhealthy cells that grow whether they are needed or not. Ewing sarcoma is a type of cancer that can start in either the bone or in non-bony tissue, which are soft tissues. This type of sarcoma is named after James Ewing, MD, who first recognized it in 1921. He noticed that the cells of what came to be called Ewing sarcoma looked different under the microscope than the cells of other bone tumors. Dr. Ewing found, however, that this type of tumor responded to radiation treatment, unlike osteosarcomas, another type of bone cancer.
Doctors later found the same type of tumor in soft tissues. They named it extraosseous Ewing sarcoma (EOE), which means it’s not found in the bone. In the 1990s, doctors found another cancer that was much like Ewing sarcoma. It is known as peripheral primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PPNET). These tumors are now all referred to collectively as the Ewing family of tumors (EFT). They are all treated in similar ways.
Studies of these tumors have shown that Ewing tumors are caused by changes in the chromosomes of the tumor cells. These changes are only found in the tumor cells. They are not genetic changes that get passed on from generation to generation. This means that a parent’s genes did not cause his or her child to get cancer. It is not known why these changes happen.