Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Giant Cell Tumor

Giant Cell Tumor

What is a giant cell tumor?

A giant cell tumor is one that is made up of a large number of benign (noncancerous) cells that form an aggressive tumor, usually near the end of the bone near a joint. The location of a giant cell tumor is often in the knee, but can also involve the bones of the arms and the legs, or the flat bones such as the sternum (breastbone) or pelvis.

Giant cell tumors most often occur in young adults when skeletal bone growth is complete. Most occur in the long bones of the legs and arms.

What causes giant cell tumors?

While the exact cause of giant cell tumors remains unknown, in some cases, they have been linked to Paget disease. Paget disease of the bone is a chronic bone disorder in which bones become enlarged and deformed.

What are the symptoms of a giant cell tumor?

The following are the most common symptoms of a giant cell tumor. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of a giant cell tumor may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is a giant cell tumor diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for giant cell tumors may include the following:

Treatment for a giant cell tumor

Specific treatment for giant cell tumors will be determined by your doctor based on:

The goal for treatment of a giant cell tumor is to remove the tumor and prevent damage to the affected bone. Treatment may include:

Tumors that cannot be removed surgically can often be controlled and sometimes be destroyed with radiation therapy. New therapies are being sought for giant cell tumors of bone, and recent clinical trials of the drug Denosumab have been promising. For unresectable tumors, ask your doctor about clinical trials.

Giant cell tumors can recur. Follow-up with a doctor may be required for several years.

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