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Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Treatment Options for LCH in Adults

Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) in adults is a lot like LCH in children and can form in the same organs and systems as it does in children. These include the endocrine and central nervous systems, liver, spleen, bone marrow, and gastrointestinal tract. In adults, LCH is most commonly found in the lung as single-system disease. LCH in the lung occurs more often in young adults who smoke. Adult LCH is also commonly found in bone or skin.

As in children, the signs and symptoms of LCH depend on where it is found in the body. See the General Information section for the signs and symptoms of LCH.

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Tests that examine the organs and body systems where LCH may occur are used to detect (find) and diagnose LCH. See the General information section for tests and procedures used to diagnose LCH.

In adults, there is not a lot of information about what treatment works best. Sometimes, information comes only from reports of the diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of one adult or a small group of adults who were given the same type of treatment.

Treatment Options for LCH of the Lung in Adults

Treatment for LCH of the lung in adults may include:

  • Quitting smoking for all patients who smoke. Lung damage will get worse over time in patients who do not quit smoking. In patients who quit smoking, lung damage may get better or it may get worse over time.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Lung transplant for patients with severe lung damage.

Sometimes LCH of the lung will go away or not get worse even if it's not treated.

Treatment Options for LCH of the Bone in Adults

Treatment for LCH that affects only the bone in adults may include:

  • Surgery with or without steroid therapy.
  • Chemotherapy with or without low-dose radiation therapy.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Bisphosphonate therapy, for severe bone pain.

Treatment Options for LCH of the Skin in Adults

Treatment for LCH that affects only the skin in adults may include:

  • Surgery.
  • Steroid or other drug therapy applied or injected into the skin.
  • Photodynamic therapy with psoralen and ultraviolet A (PUVA) radiation.
  • UVB radiation therapy.
  • Chemotherapy or biologic therapy given by mouth, such as methotrexate, thalidomide, or interferon.
  • Retinoid therapy may be used if the skin lesions do not get better with other treatment.
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