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Giant Cell Tumor of Bone

The giant cell tumor of bone is a benign (noncancerous) but aggressive tumor. It is rare and usually occurs between the ages of 20 to 40 years. The tumor gets its name from the aggregation of many cells to form giant cells, when viewed under the microscope. The condition can occur spontaneously, and in rare cases, is associated with hyperparathyroidism.

The giant cell tumor usually develops at the ends of long bones near a joint, commonly the knee joint. The tumor may also develop at the ends of the bones in the hip, shoulder, back and wrist. The main symptom of a giant cell tumor is pain, which is initially mild but increases progressively, and is felt during activity. The tumor may cause the bone to weaken and fracture. Swelling or deformity may also be present. Although the tumor is benign, it progressively destroys surrounding bone and tissue and rarely, can spread to the lungs.

When you present with the above symptoms, your doctor will order an X-ray, MRI, CT or bone scan of your affected joint to identify the affected bone and the extent of the lesion. Your lungs may be imaged to see if the tumor has spread.

Due to its aggressive nature, surgery is usually recommended to treat a giant cell tumor of bone. This is done by a procedure called curettage which involves scraping out the tumor from the bone with an instrument. Bone graft is placed within the formed cavity to reinforce the bone. Giant cell tumors have a high rate of recurrence, which may be reduced by placing bone cement instead. If the tumor has spread to the lungs, surgery is indicated to remove the tumor.