Giant Cell Bone Tumors: Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Giant cell bone tumor is one of the common types of giant cell tumor, which is also called large cell tumor. Giant cell bone tumor is a benign, non-cancer tumor. Other two types of giant cell tumors are anaplastic large cell lymphoma and giant cell carcinoma, which both are malignant ones.

Giant cell bone tumor is a primary bone tumor. Typically, giant cell bone tumor develops near the joints of the knee, wrist, shoulder or spine.

In the human body, there are all in all 33 bones or vertebrae in the spine. From up to down, the cervical vertebrae, the thoracic vertebrae, and the lumbar vertebrae are located in the neck, the upper and middle back and in the lower back in sequence. And below the lumbar vertebra, there is another bone called the sacrum at the base of the spine. For giant cell bone tumor, it can happen at any level of the spine, including the above-mentioned cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, and the sacrum.

Although giant cell bone tumor is a fast-growing one, it does not tend to spread to other parts of the body because the tumor is benign. Usually, the tumor can be successfully removed. But in some rare cases, giant cell bone tumor may become malignant too.

In
the United States, giant cell bone tumor accounts
for 5% of all primary bone tumors. Among the benign tumors, 21% of them are giant
cell tumor. Also, the condition is most commonly seen in people who are between
the age of 20 to 40. That means the tumor is more likely to happen when
skeletal bone growth is done. Although giant cell bone tumor and affect both
males and females, females may have a slightly higher risk of getting the
disease than males. But, as a rare disease, giant cell bone tumor only occurs in
about 1 out of 1 million people each year. The Chinese
population has a significantly higher incidence
rate than the western Caucasian population.

Causes

Right now, the causes of giant cell bone tumor remain unknown. The disease does not run in families. Researches on this topic are still ongoing.

Symptoms

Depending
on the location, size and severity of the tumor, signs, and symptoms of giant cell bone tumor may vary from person to
person. Common symptoms may include the following:

  • Pain at
    the site of the tumor
  • Bowel or
    bladder incontinence
  • Weakness
    in the leg
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Fractures
    with no obvious reasons
  • A visible
    bump
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling

If
you have the above-described symptoms, you’d better go to the hospital and seek
professional advice.

Diagnosis

In
order to get an accurate diagnosis, the doctor may order the following tests besides
a physical examination:

  • X-rays
    test. This test will use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to get detailed
    images of the tissues in the body.
  • Biopsy
    of the tumor. By taking a sample of the possibly affected tissue to the laboratory,
    the doctor can confirm whether you have the giant cell bone tumor or not.
  • Radionuclide
    bone scans. This imaging test can help the doctor to see if there are any degenerative
    or arthritic changes in the joints. Also, this test can help to locate the tumor
    and check if there is an inflammation.
  • Computed
    tomography (CT) scan. In this imaging
    test, X-rays and a computer are used to
    provide detailed images of the body.
  • Magnetic
    Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. With the help of large magnets, radio waves and
    a computer, this scanning test can provide a detail image and help the doctor
    to check if there is anything wrong with
    the spinal cord and the spinal nerves.

Treatment

Usually,
giant cell bone tumor can be successfully removed. Complete surgical removal
may be recommended by the doctor in most cases. Depending on where the tumor is,
specific surgery such as laminectomy and corpectomy can be done. Also, in order
to reconstruct the limb, the doctor often
suggests grafting healthy bone from another part of the body for patients with giant
cell bone tumor.

What’s
worth noticing is that giant cell bone tumor is very likely to recur. So after
the surgical treatment, the doctor may also recommend other therapies to prevent
the recurrence, such as:

  • Physical
    therapy. This therapy aims at helping the patient with to regain strength and mobility.
  • Chemotherapy
    and radiation therapy. These two approaches can be used to prolong life.
  • Embolization
    therapy. This non-surgical procedure, which typically injects a glue-like
    substance into the blood vessels, can help to slow the tumor’s growth.

Keywords: giant cell bone tumor.

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