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Childhood Extracranial Germ Cell Tumors Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - General Information About Childhood Extracranial Germ Cell Tumors

Childhood extracranial germ cell tumors form from developing sperm or egg cells that travel to parts of the body other than the brain.

As a fetus develops, certain cells form sperm in the testicles or eggs in the ovaries. Sometimes these cells travel to other parts of the body and grow into germ cell tumors. This summary is about germ cell tumors that form in parts of the body that are extracranial (outside the brain). Extracranial germ cell tumors are most common in teenagers 15 to 19 years old.

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Childhood extracranial germ cell tumors may be benign or malignant.

Extracranial germ cell tumors may be benign (noncancer) or malignant (cancer).

There are three types of extracranial germ cell tumors.

Extracranial germ cell tumors are grouped into mature teratomas, immature teratomas, or malignant germ cell tumors:

Mature Teratomas

Mature teratomas are the most common type of extracranial germ cell tumor. The cells of mature teratomas look very much like normal cells. Mature teratomas are benign and not likely to become cancer.

Immature Teratomas

Immature teratomas have cells that look very different from normal cells. Immature teratomas are not cancer. They often contain several different types of tissue such as hair, muscle, and bone.

Malignant Germ Cell Tumors

Malignant germ cell tumors are cancer. There are three types of malignant germ cell tumors:

  • Yolk sac tumors: Tumors that make a hormone called alpha-fetoprotein (AFP).
  • Germinomas: Tumors that make a hormone called beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (β-hCG).
  • Choriocarcinomas: Tumors that make a hormone called beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (β-hCG).

Childhood extracranial germ cell tumors are grouped as gonadal or extragonadal.

Malignant extracranial germ cell tumors are grouped into gonadal and extragonadal.

Gonadal Germ Cell Tumors

Gonadal germ cell tumors form in the testicles or ovaries.

Testicular Germ Cell Tumors

Testicular germ cell tumors usually occur before the age of 4 years or in teenagers and young adults.

Testicular germ cell tumors in teenagers and young adults are different from those that form in early childhood. They are more like testicular cancer in adults. Testicular germ cell tumors are divided into two main types, seminoma and nonseminoma. (See the PDQ summary on Testicular Cancer Treatment for more information.)

  • Seminoma: These tumors make a hormone called beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (β-hCG).
  • Nonseminoma: These tumors are usually large and cause symptoms. They tend to grow and spread more quickly than seminomas.

Boys older than 14 years with testicular germ cell tumors are treated in pediatric cancer centers, but the treatment is similar to that used in adults. (See the PDQ summary on Testicular Cancer Treatment for more information.)

Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors

Ovarian germ cell tumors form in egg-making cells in an ovary. These tumors are more common in teenage girls and young women. Most ovarian germ cell tumors are benign teratomas. (See the PDQ summary on Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors Treatment for more information.)

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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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