Overview and Facts about Langerhans' Cell Histiocytosis
Langerhans’ cell histiocytosis (LCH) is a rare cancer condition in which the body produces too many histiocytes. Histiocytes are a form of white blood cells that are found in healthy people and are designed to protect the body from infection. Langerhans’ cell histiocytosis normally affects children, but it can be seen in adults of all ages as well.
Signs and Symptoms of Langerhans' Cell Histiocytosis
The signs and symptoms of Langerhans’ cell histiocytosis vary from person to person, depending on the areas of the body that is affected. The main sign is the presence of a tumor or lesions which forms after the cells have accumulated, particularly when the bones are affected. The tumors can appear in any of the following areas of the body:
- Skin and nails (red, scaly areas)
- Bones (pain, swelling, and limited motion in the affected bones)
- Lymph nodes
- Pituitary gland
- Thyroid gland
Causes and Risk Factors of Langerhans' Cell Histiocytosis
The cause of LCH is not fully understood, but most doctors agree that there seems to be a genetic component, as this type of cancer tends to run in families. Additionally, about 50 percent of people with LCH have a mutation in the BRAF gene.
Tests and Diagnosis of Langerhans' Cell Histiocytosis
When diagnosing LCH, your doctor will evaluate any abnormalities in the different structures of the body by ordering any of the following tests:
- Bone marrow biopsy: to determine if the bones are affected
- Blood tests: to determine the severity of the condition
- X-rays: to determine if the lungs are affected
- Pulmonary function tests: to measure current lung function
- Liver function tests: to determine liver involvement
- MRI: to examine the effects on the pituitary gland
- CT scan: to determine the disease stage
Treatment and Care for Langerhans' Cell Histiocytosis
Patients with LCH have different treatment options which could include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, medications or surgery to remove the LCH lesions in the body. In some instances, the disease could go away without any treatment at all.