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Germ Cell Tumor

What is a Germ Cell Tumor?

Germ cell tumors are growths of cells that form from cells that normally produce eggs or sperm in the reproductive organs, mainly testicles or ovaries. The tumors may be cancerous or benign. Treatment may include surgery, followed by chemotherapy or radiation.

Causes of Germ Cell Tumors

Germ cells make sperm in males and eggs in females. Germ cells develop in the area of the fetus where the stomach and other internal organs form. Germ cells that grow in an unusual way can become a tumor. Doctors aren’t sure what triggers that unusual growth.

Patients are more likely to develop germ cell tumors if they have an undescended testicle, certain birth defects, certain genetic conditions with extra or missing sex chromosomes, or family members with germ cell tumors.

Symptoms of Germ Cell Tumors

Patients with germ cell tumors may have abdominal swelling or pain, difficulty using or holding bathroom functions; and signs of premature puberty. Ovarian germ cell tumors can be difficult to detect until they become large enough to produce symptoms, usually after age 10. Testicular tumors often are detected early because they are painful or become noticeable in the scrotum. Germ cell tumors outside of reproductive organs can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on the type and location.

Diagnosis of Germ Cell Tumors

Your doctor may perform a physical exam, blood tests, and imaging scans, including X-rays, MRIs or a CT scan, to diagnose and stage a germ cell tumor. A biopsy will likely be performed to examine part of the tumor under a microscope, helping to reach a definitive diagnosis and determine whether the tumor is cancerous. A blood test that shows high levels of Alfa-feto, a protein in the mother’s blood during pregnancy, is also indicative of a germ cell tumor. Your doctor may also check for high levels of beta Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, a hormone that increases during pregnancy or if a patient has a germ cell tumor.

Treatment of Germ Cell Tumors

For some germ cell tumors, complete surgical removal is possible and effective. In some cases, radiation and chemotherapy may be used in combination with surgery. About 90% of germ cell tumors are cured.

What you can expect at UTHealth Neurosciences

UTHealth Neurosciences brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists to help provide relief for even the most complex problems. Your team will share insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes. You will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

We first investigate nonsurgical treatment options, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

Contact Us

At UTHealth Houston Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8000, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.