What is Germ Cell Tumor?

Germ cell tumors are growths that form from reproductive cells. Germ cells tumors can be cancerous or non-cancerous. Germ cell tumors occur in the testicles or ovaries. Germ cell tumors can occur in other places such as abdomen, brain, and chest, but these are not very common.

What causes germ cell tumor? Who is affected?

The causes are unknown, but changes in the germ cell can cause it to grow out of control, which leads to a tumor. Genetics can also play into factor. Germ cell tumors account for about 2 to 4 percent of all cancers in children and adolescents under age 20.

What are symptoms of germ cell tumor?

There are many symptoms for germ cell tumors. However, the symptoms may be different in each case. The most common germ cell tumor symptoms include:

  • A tumor, swelling, or mass that can be felt or seen
  • Elevated levels of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)
  • Elevated levels of beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (ß-HCG)
  • Constipation, incontinence, and leg weakness can occur if the tumor is in the sacrum (a segment of the vertebral column that forms the top part of the pelvis) compressing structures
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal shape or irregular size testicles
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing if tumors in the chest are pressing on the lungs

How are germ cell tumors treated?

There are several germ cell tumor treatments, including:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Bone marrow transplant
  • Supportive care (for the effects of treatment)
  • Hormonal replacement (if necessary)
  • Antibiotics (to prevent or treat infections)
  • Continuous follow-up care (to determine response to treatment, detect recurrent disease, and manage the late effects of treatment)

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