Giant Cell Tumour


Giant cell tumour is a rare form of benign (noncancerous) bone tumour that is aggressive in nature. This tumour is formed by fusion of many single cells into one large complex. It usually develops near the joints at the end of the long bone. Most giant cell tumours occur around the knee joint in the lower end of the thighbone or the upper end of the shinbone. But can also appear in the bones of the arms and legs, or the flat bones of the hip or breast. The exact cause of giant cell tumour is unknown but they are often associated with the Paget’s disease​. It most often occurs in adults who have reached their maximum height. It is rarely seen in children and older people above the age of sixty-five. It can also spread to the lungs though that happens rarely.​

Symptoms for giant cell tumour can vary from person to person. The common symptoms associated with this kind of tumour include:

  • Pain at the nearest joint that increases with activity and decreases with rest

  • A visible mass

  • Swelling

  • Fracture due to weakened bones

  • Limited mobility in the nearest joint​

​Since the symptoms of giant cell tumour can be confused with other medical issues, you should seek expert medical advice from doctors at the Oncology Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.

​Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here​ are some tips to help get you started.

Initially, your doctor may inquire about your medical history, followed by a physical exam to inspect the affected area. For further confirmation you may be asked to undergo some additional tests, including:

  • X-rays, in which a small amount of radiation is used to generate an image of your bones and organs

  • Computerized Tomography (CT) scans, in which a series of detailed images, of the body, are taken by a computer. This is done to produce a more detailed image and to check if the tumour has spread to the lungs

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, in which a series of detailed images of the body are made on the computer using a magnet and radio waves. This is done when the tumour is located in an area that is difficult to capture in X-rays 

  • Bone scan in which a radioactive material (radiotracer) is injected in the body which travels to the bones most affected by the disease. The radiotracer emits little bits of radiation which is detected by the camera as it scans the body

These tumours cannot be left untreated as they will continue to grow and destroy bones. The primary goal of your doctor will be to remove the tumour completely and prevent bone damage as much as possible. Treatment options would depend on your general overall health, extent of the disease, and your personal preferences. These options include:

  • Radiation therapy to eliminate the tumour. While this procedure has been very effective, there is a 15% chance that the patient receiving this treatment will get cancer. Hence radiation therapy isn’t the first preference and only used when surgery is not an option.

  • Surgery to remove the tumour including:

    • Curettage in which the tumour is scrapped out of the bone

    • Bone graft, performed after the curettage to fill the hole left behind by the tumour, in which a healthy bone is transplanted from another part of the body, or from a donor, into the affected area

    • Amputation on the compromised bone in severe cases

​The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.