Granular Cell Tumors

Granular cell tumors are slow-growing skin tumors that originate in Schwann cells, which are a variety of the glial cells that keep peripheral nerve fibers alive. Rare and almost always benign, they consist of small, usually painless, nodules. They often occur in the tongue but can be found almost anywhere in the body. Exactly what causes them is unknown.

Granular cell tumors affect those with an average age of 50, and occur most frequently in women and African Americans. In approximately 45 percent to 65 percent of cases, granular cell tumors are located in the head and neck areas and, of those, seventy percent are found in the tongue, oral mucosa and hard palate.

Appearance Of Granular Cell Tumors

Usually slow-growing, granular cell tumors are rarely bigger than three centimeters in diameter and are generally asymptomatic. They often appear as firm, pale-white or pale-yellow, non-encapsulated, poorly to well-defined nodules that have a thickened overlying skin or mucosa. Distinguishing between benign and malignant granular cell tumors is often difficult because they have a similar tissue structure.

Treatment Of Granular Cell Tumors

Surgery is usually used to treat granular cell tumors and, in the case of benign tumors, recurrence is extremely rare. Malignant granular cell tumors are usually larger than benign ones, and may be life-threatening, making early intervention essential. Only 2 percent of granular cell tumors are diagnosed as malignant.

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