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Histiocytoma - Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Histiocytoma is a tumor that develops in soft tissues and sometimes affects the bone, associated with a lump and localized pain. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Rajesh Gulati

Published At March 7, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 7, 2023


A histiocytoma is a tumor made of histiocytes that develop in the soft tissues, occasionally even in the bone. Histiocytomas come in a variety of forms. Some are cancerous, while others are benign. There are numerous treatment options. Histiocytes are phagocytic cells that comprise the mononuclear phagocytic system, a component of the body's immune system. Phagocytic cells are responsible for engulfing solid particles through the cell membrane to create an internal phagosome by protists and phagocytes. Histiocytomas come in a variety of forms, from common to rare. Both cutaneous and benign fibrous histiocytomas are fairly common. Even though undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma is less frequent, it still accounts for 20 to 30 percent of soft tissue sarcomas. It is rare to have angioid fibrous histiocytomas.

What Are the Types of Histiocytomas?

The different types of histiocytomas include:

  • Undifferentiated Pleomorphic Sarcoma (UPS): This cancer, also known as malignant fibrous histiocytoma, typically appears in soft tissue. It may occasionally develop in the bone. Pleomorphic sarcoma, which primarily affects older adults, can develop anywhere in the body but typically manifests in the arms, legs, and abdomen. Sarcomas can occasionally develop in regions previously the focus of radiation therapy. These tumors typically develop quickly and spread (spread to other parts of the body).

  • Benign Fibrous Histiocytoma (BFH): Benign fibrous histiocytomas are among the most prevalent soft tissue lesions and manifest as fibrous masses. They can appear anywhere in the body. Benign soft tissue tumors and benign bone tumors are not cancerous, in contrast to pleomorphic sarcomas. However, they still need to be treated most of the time.

  • Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma (AMFH): Angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma is a rare tumor typically affecting children and young adults. The arms or legs are common locations for this slow-growing mass. A hematoma may be mistaken for angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma because most affected individuals experience little to no pain (when blood collects underneath the skin's surface). Usually, this kind of tumor is curable. Angioid fibrous histiocytoma can spread to distant regions of the body in one percent of cases.

  • Cutaneous Histiocytoma: This kind of tumor, also known as a dermatofibroma or a superficial benign fibrous histiocytoma, typically impacts the skin on the lower legs. Women are more prone to the condition than men are. Removal is not necessary unless they have problematic symptoms.

What Causes Histiocytoma?

These tumors can occasionally be associated with radiation, chemotherapy, or specific illnesses like Paget’s breast disease. They may also show up following trauma or injury. However, it is unclear to experts what initially triggers histiocytoma.

Who Is at Risk for Histiocytoma?

The type of histiocytoma determines this. For instance, men are more likely than women to develop undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma, and the likelihood of doing so rises with advancing age. But angiomatoid fibrous histiocytomas typically affect kids, teenagers, and young adults. Additionally, cutaneous histiocytoma typically manifests in early or mid-adulthood and is slightly more common in women.

What Are the Symptoms of Histiocytoma?

Depending on the type of histiocytoma, the symptoms may vary:

1. Undifferentiated Pleomorphic Sarcoma

  • A lump that grows larger.

  • Tingling.

  • Pain.

  • Numbness.

  • Swelling in hand or foot.

  • Constipation.

  • Fever.

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Weight loss.

2. Benign Fibrous Histiocytoma

  • A developing lump or swollen area.

  • Localized pain.

Note: Benign fibrous histiocytomas in the mouth are uncommon. However, if it does, one might have dyspnea (shortness of breath), dysphasia (difficulty swallowing), or difficulty talking.

3. Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma

  • Fever.

  • Weight loss.

  • Anemia.

  • Pain.

  • Tenderness.

4. Cutaneous Histiocytoma

  • Dark-colored spot on the skin (usually on the lower legs).

  • Raised bump.

How Is Histiocytoma Diagnosed?

The doctor will ask about the symptoms and conduct a visual examination. They could also request tests, such as:

  • Dermoscopy: The healthcare provider carefully examines lesions or bumps using a handheld visual device.

  • X-Rays: Bone and dense tissue are examined more closely using these images.

  • Ultrasound: This imaging test helps the medical team see the soft tissues inside the body.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): For a thorough examination of the bone and cartilage, an MRI may be required.

  • Biopsy: The healthcare provider might take a tissue sample and send it to a lab for analysis to confirm the diagnosis.

With these evaluations, the healthcare provider can distinguish between histiocytomas and other conditions that may be mistaken for tumors.

How Is Histiocytoma Treated?

The histiocytoma's type, size, and location will all affect the recommended course of treatment. Malignant histiocytomas are typically removed surgically. The remaining problematic cells are then eliminated using chemotherapy or radiation therapy. In some circumstances, the doctor might advise using radiation therapy or chemotherapy to reduce the tumor before removing it.

Are There Any Side Effects From the Treatment?

There could be side effects, as there are with any treatment. Depending on the kind of medical treatment, they may vary:

1. Surgery

  • Pain.

  • Blood clots.

  • Infection.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Bleeding.

  • Allergic reaction to the anesthesia.

  • Soreness around the incision site.

2. Chemotherapy

  • Tiredness.

  • Weight changes.

  • Fertility problems.

  • Bruising easily.

  • Anemia.

  • Hair loss.

  • Infection.

  • Diarrhea.

  • Constipation.

  • Mood changes.

3. Radiation Therapy

  • Tiredness.

  • Skin changes.

How to Lower the Risk of Developing Histiocytoma?

Uncertain causes of histiocytoma may make it impossible to completely prevent it from happening. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, such as following a balanced diet, regular exercise, and quitting smoking, can lower the risk of developing many sarcomas.


A histiocytoma is a tumor made of histiocytes that develop in the soft tissues, occasionally even in the bone. Histiocytomas come in a variety of forms. Some are cancerous, while others are benign. The lack of knowledge regarding the causes of histiocytomas can be terrifying. However, the chances of full recovery are greatest if the patients receive prompt diagnosis and treatment.

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Dr. Rajesh Gulati
Dr. Rajesh Gulati

Family Physician


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