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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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October 2003

Q. My granddaughter is 14 months old and has been diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis. What is it? How is it treated? What is the survivability? What else do I need to know to be properly informed? Are there any support groups?

A. Histiocytosis is a group of conditions in which excessive numbers of histiocyte cells, part of the immune system, are produced. There are 3 subclasses of this condition; Langerhans Cell type is also known as Histiocytosis X. This occurs most commonly in children under age 15, but only affects about 1 in 200,000 persons. It is thought to be an auto-immune disease rather than a form of cancer. The most common complication from the excess cell production is the development of tumors, usually involving the bones, but internal organs can be affected as well. Treatment is usually with medication such as corticosteroids to "turn off" the immune system. Chemotherapy drugs are also used.



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