Childhood Sarcoma

Childhood Sarcoma Awareness and Risk Reduction

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Childhood sarcoma includes several types of pediatric cancer, all of which involve tumors that develop in a child’s bones or soft tissue. These tumors can also spread to different parts of the body through the blood, lymph nodes, or tissue.

Types of Bone Sarcomas in Children

  • Osteosarcoma: Affecting roughly 400 children in the United States per year, osteosarcoma is the most common pediatric bone cancer. It generally develops in areas where the bone is growing quickly, such as the knee or upper arm.
  • Ewing’s sarcoma: Most of these tumors grow in the bones of the legs, arms, back, chest, or pelvis. Less frequently, they grow in the kidney and other soft tissues. About 200 children in the United States develop Ewing’s sarcoma each year.

Types of Soft Tissue Sarcomas in Children

  • Rhabdomyosarcoma: This type typically develops in muscle tissue. Each year in the United States, between 400 and 600 children are diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma.
  • Non-rhabdomyosarcoma: Able to develop anywhere in the body that has soft tissue, these include all soft tissue sarcomas that are not rhabdomyosarcoma. About 600 children in the United States develop these cancers each year.

Childhood Sarcoma Causes and Risk Factors

Unfortunately, the exact causes of childhood sarcoma are not yet known. The survival rate is often high for tumors that have not spread to other parts of the body. As with most cancers, sarcomas that spread are harder to cure, but many children do survive.

Like most cancers, sarcomas can result from gene mutations that cause cells to grow uncontrollably and become cancerous. In children, these mutations are rarely caused by factors that can be controlled, so it is difficult to minimize their risk of developing cancer.

In some cases, genetic testing can help identify children who are more likely to be at risk of developing cancer. The Cancer Susceptibility Program at Children’s Health provides families of children who have an increased likelihood of developing cancer access to the most advanced genetic counseling, ongoing screening, and oncology specialists. We identify children who, due to genetics, are more likely to develop some forms of cancer and watch over them to detect and, if necessary, treat any cancer as early as possible.

Symptoms of Bone Sarcomas in Children

Symptoms of childhood bone sarcomas include:

  • Lump or swelling where the tumor is growing, may hurt when tissue is pressed
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Numbness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of Soft-Tissue Sarcomas in Children

Because soft-tissue sarcomas can start anywhere in the body, their symptoms vary. They may include:

  • Lump or swelling in the neck, chest or back
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in urine
  • Bone pain
  • Bulging eye or vision problems
  • Earache, headache, sinus congestion
  • Jaundice (yellow coloring) in eyes or skin
  • Difficulty using the bathroom
  • Persistent cough
  • Vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Weight loss or weakness