Although larger residual masses are more likely to harbor viable seminoma, the size of the residual mass is of limited prognostic value.[24,25,26] Most residual masses do not grow, and regular marker and computed tomographic (CT) scan evaluation is a viable management option for large or small masses. An alternative approach is to operate on larger masses, to resect them when possible, and to perform biopsies of unresectable masses. Postchemotherapy masses are often difficult or impossible to resect because of a dense desmoplastic reaction. Historically, such surgery has been characterized by a high rate of complications or additional procedures such as nephrectomy or arterial or venous grafting.
Residual Masses After Chemotherapy in Men with Nonseminomas
Residual masses following chemotherapy in men with nonseminomatous germ cell tumors often contain viable cancer or teratoma, and the standard of care is to resect all such masses when possible. However, there are no randomized controlled trials evaluating this issue. Instead, the practice is based on the fact that viable neoplasm is often found at surgery in these patients, and the presumption is that such tumors would progress if not resected. If serum tumor markers are rising, salvage chemotherapy is usually given, but stable or slowly declining tumor markers are not a contraindication to resection of residual masses.
Case series of men undergoing postchemotherapy resections have reported that roughly 10% will have viable germ cell cancer, 45% will have teratoma, and 45% will have no viable tumor. Numerous attempts have been made to identify the patients who need surgery and the patients who can be safely observed. Variables predictive of finding only necrosis or fibrosis at surgery are:
- Absence of any teratoma in the primary tumor.
- Normal prechemotherapy serum alpha-fetoprotein, β-human chorionic gonadotropin, and lactase dehydrogenase.
- A small residual mass.
- A large diminishment in mass size during chemotherapy.
However, only a very small proportion of men have favorable enough features to have less than a 10% chance of having viable neoplasm in their residual masses, and thus the utility of current models has been questioned.[24,32]