When your child is diagnosed with cancer, it can feel overwhelming. This phase involves finding out if your child has cancer, and determining the type of cancer they have. Children’s cancer can be difficult to diagnose, as many symptoms are similar to those caused by less serious conditions, or injuries. This means that your child may need several tests and medical appointments before you receive confirmation that your child has cancer.

If your doctor thinks your child has a bone tumour, your child will have several tests, which may include:

  • medical history and physical exam
  • medical imaging, such as
    • X-ray
    • computed tomography (CT) scan
    • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • bone scan
    • positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • biopsy, with tests for genetic changes to help find how best to treat your child.

To diagnose Ewing tumours, doctors may also ask for:

  • blood tests
  • bone marrow aspiration and biopsy.

Our section, How is cancer diagnosed? explains these tests in more detail.



Doctors use staging to describe how much the cancer has grown. Some of the tests will also help to stage the tumour. Staging measures:

  • where the tumour is
  • how big the tumour is
  • what nearby organs it affects
  • if it has spread to other parts of the body.

Your doctor will use this information to determine the best way to treat the disease. Staging will also give your doctor an idea of how well these treatments are likely to work (prognosis).

How doctors assess the stage or extent of disease varies. They often stage osteosarcoma and Ewing tumours in one of two ways. The disease can be localised or metastatic. Localised means the cancer has not spread beyond the bone it started in. Metastatic means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, usually to other bones or the lungs.

The American Cancer Society has more information about staging for osteosarcoma and Ewing tumours.