Giant Cell Bone Tumors: Symptoms, Treatment


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Related Posts:

How Long are the Prognoses of Giant Cell Tumor with Glioblastoma?

What is Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma?

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.