Germ cell tumors grow in the ovaries and testes
Germ cells are the cells in your body that are used for reproduction. In women, germ cells form the eggs in the ovaries. In men, germ cells form the sperm in the testicles.
Sometimes when germ cells don’t fully develop, they become tumors. No one knows why this happens, though it could be genetic. Germ cell tumors may or may not be cancerous. Overall, germ cell tumors are rare.
Most germ cell tumors occur in the ovaries and testicles, forming ovarian cancer or testicular cancer. However, germ cell tumors can also very rarely form in other parts of your body, such as the brain or spine.
What are the symptoms of germ cell tumors?
Germ cell tumors may cause symptoms in children and young adults. Symptoms may include:
- Pain in the abdomen or chest
- Trouble breathing
- A lump in the groin or lower abdomen
- Vaginal bleeding
- No period
- Early puberty
- Trouble going to the bathroom
- Abnormally shaped or sized testicles
How are germ cell tumors treated?
Germ cell tumors tend to respond well to treatments. Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that fits your needs.
Treatment often includes surgery to remove the tumor or the organ where the tumor is (such as the ovary or the testicle). Your surgeon may also remove surrounding tissue to make sure no cancer cells have spread.
If germ cell tumors are cancerous, surgery is often followed by chemotherapy , which uses medicines to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy medicines are usually given to you as pills or through a tube in your vein.
Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy particles or waves to burn away cancer cells, might be used with chemotherapy or in place of chemotherapy. Radiation therapy precisely targets cancer cells to help leave as many healthy cells as possible.