Childhood Extracranial Germ Cell Tumors Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Stages of Childhood Extracranial Germ Cell Tumors
After a childhood extracranial germ cell tumor has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread from where the tumor started to nearby areas or to other parts of the body.
The process used to find out if cancer has spread from where the tumor started to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. In some cases, staging may follow surgery to remove the tumor.
The following procedures may be used:
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.
- Bone scan: A procedure to check if there are rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, in the bone. A very small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. The radioactive material collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.
- Thoracentesis: The removal of fluid from the space between the lining of the chest and the lung, using a needle. A pathologist views the fluid under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
- Paracentesis: The removal of fluid from the space between the lining of the abdomen and the organs in the abdomen, using a needle. A pathologist views the fluid under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
The results from tests and procedures used to detect and diagnose childhood extracranial germ cell tumor may also be used in staging.
There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.
The three ways that cancer spreads in the body are:
- Through tissue. Cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue.
- Through the lymph system. Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.
- Through the blood. Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body.
When cancer cells break away from the primary (original) tumor and travel through the lymph or blood to other places in the body, another (secondary) tumor may form. This process is called metastasis. The secondary (metastatic) tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually breast cancer cells. The disease is metastatic breast cancer, not bone cancer.
The following stages are commonly used for childhood nonseminoma testicular germ cell tumors:
In stage I, the cancer is found only in the testicle and is completely removed by surgery. Tumor marker levels return to normal after surgery.