What are germ cell tumors?
Germ cell tumors are evolutions that form from reproductive cells. The tumors can be cancerous or non-cancerous. Most cancerous germ cell tumors present as testicular cancer or ovarian cancer.
Some germ cell tumors occur in other areas of the body, such as the abdomen, brain, and chest, although it is not clear why. Germ cell tumors that occur in places other than the testes and ovaries (extragonadal germ cell tumor) are very rare.
Germ cell tumors tend to rejoin to treatment, and many can be cured, even when diagnosed at a late stage.
Types of germ cell tumors
There are several, but five are more mutual than others:
- Teratomas also called “dermic cysts,” are not typically cancer, but they can be. They are the most common germ cell tumors found in the ovaries. They are usually treated with surgery.
- Germinomas are cancer: They are called “dysgerminomas” if they are in the ovaries and seminomas in the testicles. Non-seminomatous germ cell tumors are cancerous and are found in the brain.
- Yolk sac tumors (also called endodermal sinus tumors) are often cancerous. They form in the testicles and ovaries. It is often aggressive cancer that quickly spreads to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body. They are usually treated with surgery and chemotherapy.
- Embryonal carcinoma has cancer cells that frequently mix with another type of germ cell tumor. For example, embryonal carcinoma cells could mix with teratoma and turn it into cancer.
- Choriocarcinoma is a rare cancer that occurs in the placenta. It can move both the mother and the baby.
Causes of germ cell tumors
Changes in the genes of a germ cell can cause it to grow out of control, leading to a tumor. Doctors are not sure what triggers that change.
Still, you are more likely to have a germ cell tumor if you have:
- An undescended testicle (one or both testicles have not fallen into the scrotum)
- Congenital defects in the central nervous system, genitalia, lumbar spine, and urinary tract
- Genetic conditions such as Klinefelter syndrome or Turner syndrome, in which you have an extra or missing sex chromosome
- Other family associates who had germ cell tumor
Symptoms of germ cell tumors
It depends on the type of tumor and its location. Common signs of germ cell tumor include:
- A mass in your ovaries or testicles
- Swelling and pain in the belly (caused by a tumor)
- Problems with bathing (difficulty defecating or holding urine if the tumor is near the pelvis)
- Breast growth, pubic hair, or vaginal bleeding at a previous age than normal
- Stomach or chest pain
- Lump or mass in the abdomen or testicles
- Testicles that are not the right size or shape
- Weakness in the legs (if the tumor is in the lower back)
- Puffed or shortness of breath (if the tumor is near the lungs)
Treatment for germ cell tumors
It depends on the type of tumor you have, where it is located, and whether it has spread. Your doctor will also take your age and general health into account. You may need more than one kind of treatment. Your doctor will help you find the best approach.
Treatment options generally include:
- Surgery to remove the tumor. If it is cancer, your doctor must remove all the cancer cells. That could mean take away the testicle or ovary and fallopian tube where the tumor is located.
- Chemotherapy (chemo), which usages drugs to kill cancer. It is often used if the tumor is cancer and has spread to other parts of your body.
- Radiation, which uses great energy from X-rays or other causes to kill cancer cells. Newer types of radiation are focused as close to the tumor as possible to help limit side effects.
Departments to consult for this condition
- Department of oncology