Each year, about 50 children in the UK are diagnosed with germ cell tumours.
Germ cell tumours can develop at any age and usually originate in the ovaries or testes (gonadal germ cell tumours) but they can sometimes occur in other parts of the body as well (extragonadal germ cell tumours). Extragonadal germ cell tumours most commonly occur are at the bottom of the spine (sacrococcygeal), the brain, chest and abdomen. Germ cell tumours can be benign or malignant.
There are several different types of germ cell tumours including germinomas, yolk- sac tumours, embryonal carcinomas and teratomas.
The overall survival rate of children with germ cell tumours is 93%. Children with specifically gonadal germ cell tumours now have a survival of 99%.
Symptoms are dependent on where the germ cell tumour develops, but can include:
- A palpable lump
- Chest or abdominal pain
- The tumour may press on other body parts such as the bladder causing symptoms such as needing to past urine very often
Diagnosis usually will involve:
- Bloods to look for specific proteins in the blood called tumour markers (AFP and HCG)
- CT or MRI scan
- Chest xray to rule out tumour spread
- The mainstay of treatment is usually surgery
- If the tumour has spread or cannot be completely removed then chemotherapy can be used before or after surgery
- If the tumour is in the brain, it may also be treated with radiotherapy.
Content reviewed July 2021