Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) is a rare disorder that occurs when a child has too many of a certain type of white blood cell called Langerhans cells. These cells normally reside in the skin and help fight infection and destroy certain foreign substances in the body. LCH can impact in one organ or body system (unifocal) or more than one part of an organ or body system (multifocal). It can also affect multiple organs and body systems.
Children and young adults with Langerhans cell histiocytosis are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center in Boston, MA, through our Histiocytosis Program. Continue reading to learn more about LCH or visit the Histiocytosis Program homepage to learn about our expertise.
In LCH, the Langerhans cells accumulate in bone and other parts of the body, particularly the head and neck, and can cause a variety of symptoms. They can also be found in the ribs, sternum, long bones of the arm and leg, vertebra of the spine, and the pelvis. The most common symptoms include:
The most common age at diagnosis is two or three years, but children can be diagnosed at birth and into their teenage years. The most conclusive diagnostic procedure for LCH is a biopsy. Other tests include:
Treatment for LCH varies widely from child to child and, in some cases, is similar to that of cancer (though LCH is not a type of cancer). Oftentimes, the disease goes away on its own. Otherwise, it may be treated with:
LCH may recur in the same place or in other parts of the body, most often in bone, the ears, skin or pituitary gland. The disease often recurs the year after stopping treatment, but there have been reports of recurrence up to five years after the initial disappearance of the disease.
Stephen Sallan, MD, discusses treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's.