What is a germinoma?

Germ cell brain tumors develop from germ cells, which become sperm or eggs. During the fetal period, these cells may get trapped in the brain, causing a tumor.

Germ cell tumors make up about 3% of central nervous system pediatric brain tumors.

About 50-65% of germ cell tumors are germinomatous, the rest are non-germinomatous.

These tumors mainly grow in two areas:

  • Pineal region: regulates hormones, particularly melatonin which regulates sleep
  • Suprasellar region: where pituitary gland is located, helps regulate other endocrine glands

What causes a germinoma? Who is affected?

During the normal development of a fetus, germ cells develop into an egg (in a girl) or sperm (in a boy). In rare cases, these cells migrate to the brain, producing a tumor. These tumors can spread to other parts of the brain and spine through cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). It is unclear why or how germ cells migrate.

Germ cell brain tumors are rare and account for less than 5% of all brain tumors in children.

They are more common in boys than girls.

About half of germ cell brain tumors occur in children and young adults between the ages of 11 and 30.

What are the symptoms of a germinoma?

Symptoms of germ brain cell tumors depend on the location and size of the tumor.

For tumors in the pineal gland region, children may experience hydrocephalus (swelling of the brain), headache, vomiting, fatigue, behavioral or cognitive changes, ataxia (uncoordinated body movement), and changes in vision.

Tumors in the suprasellar or pituitary gland region may cause early or delayed puberty, stunted growth, vision changes, and diabetes insipidus (a disorder characterized by intense thirst and passing large amounts of urine).

How are germinomas treated?

Most germinomas are treated with chemotherapy and combined with radiation therapy in some cases. Both are common therapies used to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.