Germ cells form the eggs (ova) in females and the sperm in males. Germ cell tumors are made up of these underdeveloped cells. Germ cell tumors are rare. They may be cancer (malignant) or not cancer (benign).
Germ cell tumors may grow in these parts of the body:
The tumors come in different types.
Many germ cell tumors have more than one type of cell. These tumors are treated based on the cell type that is most common.
Symptoms can vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:
The symptoms of germ cell tumors can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask questions about your child's medical history and current symptoms. He or she will examine your child, paying close attention to areas with lumps, pain, or other symptoms. Your child may need to see a cancer specialist (pediatric oncologist). Your child may have tests such as:
After a diagnosis of germ cell tumor, your child will have other tests. These help healthcare providers learn more about the tumor. They will show how much and how far the cancer has spread (metastasized) in your child's body. A stage grouping is then assigned. In some cases, a stage grouping isn't assigned until after surgery is done to remove the tumor.
Stage groupings can have a value of 1 to 4. They are written as Roman numerals I, II, III, and IV. The higher the number, the more advanced the tumor is. Letters and numbers can be used after the Roman numeral to give more details.
The stage of a cancer is one of the most important things to know when deciding how to treat the cancer. Be sure to ask your child's healthcare provider to explain the stage of your child's cancer to you in a way you can understand.
Your child may be treated by several types of healthcare providers. This depends on factors such as the type and location of the germ cell tumor. The cancer may be treated with any of the below:
With any cancer, how well a child is expected to recover (prognosis) varies. Keep in mind:
A child may have complications from the tumor or from treatment. They may include:
A child with a germ cell tumor needs ongoing care. Your child will be seen by oncologists and other healthcare providers to treat any late effects of treatment and to watch for signs or symptoms of the tumor returning. Your child will be checked with imaging tests and other tests. And your child may see other healthcare providers for problems from the tumor or from treatment.
You can help your child manage his or her treatment in many ways. For example:
Call the healthcare provider if your child has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: