What are Germ Cell Tumors?

Germ cell tumors are cancerous or benign, noncancerous tumors which are comprised primarily of germ cells. Germ cells are ones which develop in the embryo and become the cells making up the reproductive system in females and males. These particular germ cells follow a midline path through the body after the development and then ceased into pelvis as ovarian cells. Most ovarian tumors and the testicular tumors are part of germ cell origin. The ovaries and testes are termed gonads.

Tumor sites outside gonad are named extragonadal sites. The tumors occur along the midline route and can be present in the head, abdomen, chest, pelvis, and sacrococcygeal area. Basically, germ cell tumors are not so common. Germ cell tumors only account for two to four percent of all cancers in children as well as adolescent that are younger than the age of 20. Germ cell tmors can metastasize or spread to other parts of the body. The most common sites for metastasis are the lungs, lymph nodes, liver, and central nervous system. Quite rarely, germ cell tumors can metastasize to the bone marrow, bone, and other organs in the body.

What Triggers the Growth of Cell Tumors

The cause of germ cell tumors is not entirely known. A number of inherited factors have been associated with the increased risk for developing germ cell tumors which include the central nervous system and genitourinary tract malformations and the major malformations of the lower spine. Specifically, males with cryptorchidism, which is the failure of the testes to lower into the scrotal sac, have increased risk to develop testicular germ cell. Cryptorchidism can appear alone, however, and is also evident in some genetic syndromes.Some genetic syndromes that are caused by missing or extra sex chromosomes can cause incomplete or abnormal development of the reproductive system.

The Symptoms of Germ Cell Tumors

The following are the most general symptoms of germ cell tumors. But, each child may go through different symptoms. They actually vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. The symptoms may include:

·         Swelling, mass, or tumor which can be seen or felt

·         Enhanced levels of alpha-fetoprotein

·         Enhanced levels of beta-human chorionic gonadotropin

·         Incontinence, constipation, and leg weakness can occur if the tumor is in the sacrum, which denotes a segment of the vertebral column that forms the top part of the pelvis, compressing edifice.

·         Abdominal pain

·         Abnormal shape in testicular size

·         The shortness of breath or wheezing if tumors in the chest are pressing on lungs.

What makes it difficult to detect is that the symptom of germ cell tumor may appear similar to other conditions or medical problems. As such, it is important to always consult your kid’s doctor for diagnosis for germ cell tumor. In addition to the medical history and medical check, diagnostic procedures on germ cell tumors may also include

  • Biopsy-this denotes removing a sample of tissue from the tumor and examining it under the microscope.
  • Complete blood count, also known as CBC-this is meant to measure the size, maturity of different blood cells in distinct volume of blood.
  • Additional blood tests-these include blood chemistries, evaluation of liver and kidney functions, genetic studies, and tumor cell markers.

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