Germ cell tumors are growths that form from reproductive cells. Tumors may be cancerous or noncancerous. Most germ cell tumors that are cancerous occur as cancer of the testicles (testicular cancer) or cancer of the ovaries (ovarian cancer).
Some germ cell tumors occur in other areas of the body, such as the abdomen, brain and chest, though it’s not clear why. Germ cell tumors that occur in places other than the testicles and ovaries (extragonadal germ cell tumors) are very rare.
Germ cell tumors tend to respond to treatment and many can be cured, even when diagnosed at a late stage.
The cause of germ cell tumors is unknown but research into the causes of different cancers is ongoing.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms depend on where the tumour develops. Usually it starts with a lump that can either be felt or causes other symptoms.
The stage of a cancer describes its size and whether it has spread from where it started. Knowing the stage helps doctors to decide on the most appropriate treatment.
Generally cancer is divided into four stages;
Stage 1 – the cancer is larger and may not have been completely removed.
Stage 2 and 3 – the cancer is larger and may not have been completely removed, or may have spread to nearby organs.
Stage 4 – the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body and formed new tumours is known as secondary or metastatic cancer.
There are different types of treatment for patients with extragonadal germ cell tumors.
Three types of standard treatment are:
- Radiation therapy
New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
- High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant
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