A Basic Understanding of the Giant Cell Tumor

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What is a Giant Cell Tumor?

Giant cell tumor is a primary bone tumor that usually develops in the end of a leg or arm bone. People in the age group of 25 to 40 are most susceptible to this tumor, and it is found more commonly in women than in men. Asians are known to be more prone to this tumor than other ethnic groups. It is rarely found among children. At the initial stage the patient experiences a gradually progressive pain, which may or may not be accompanied by an abnormal formation of mass. In some cases the tumor may present itself with a pathologic fracture of the bone.

General Overview

Tumor of the giant cell is among the more common primary bone tumors, which is also known by the name of osteoclastoma. It consists of numerous giant cells known as osteoclasts. Nearly 50 percent of all giant cell tumors develop in the knee area, at the lower end of the thigh bone or in the bone of the lower leg. The tumor causes weakening and destruction of the bony structure, which may result in fractures even without any due pressure on the bone. Other giant cell tumors can develop in almost any bone in the body, which may include the pelvis, sacrum, and the bones of feet or hands. The growth of this tumor is inconsistent and cannot be predicted. It is usually benign, but it may have the tendency to recur upon surgical removal. If the affected area is exposed to strong doses of radiation, there is a risk of malignancy.


The underlying causes of this tumor are unknown. But the patient should be aware of what signs to look for in this disease. Pain is the earliest symptom in most cases. Since this tumor usually develops in the joint areas, it is bound to cause arthritic pain to the patient. The second symptom is swelling of the affected area because this tumor leads to bone enlargement. Fractures become common in this disease because of the weakening of the surrounding bone structures. If the patient experiences unexplained fractures of the bone even without putting the bone under stress, it may be an indication of this tumor. The patient is likely to experience severe pain when the fracture occurs.


Surgery is the primary method to treat this tumor. The treatment team in this case usually includes the orthopaedic oncologist and radiation oncologist. Once the tumor has been removed by surgery, the recuperation of the patient may require the assistance of a physiotherapist. Most of the Stage 1 and Stage 2 tumors require aggressive curettage treatment. In this treatment the bone is chemically treated and filled with bone cement. In Stage 3 tumors and even in some Stage 2 tumors a portion of the bone may have to be removed. In extremely rare conditions, the tumor may have spread to such an extent that amputation may become necessary. If the tumor is located in an area that cannot be treated surgically, the doctor may make use of radiation therapy. However, chemotherapy is not known to be a successful treatment for giant cell tumors.




(Retrieved on 23 Nov., 2010)