Extracranial germ cell tumor is a rare growth that develops in the germ cells of the ovaries or testes.
It can also form on germ cells that travel to other locations throughout the body (not including the brain).
These locations usually involve the chest, tailbone or abdomen. The germ cells, also known as reproductive cells, are cells that develop into eggs in women and sperm in men.
Risk Factors and Causes
The primary cause of extracranial germ cell tumor remains unknown. Studies have, however, linked extracranial germ cell tumors to a variety of genetic disorders:
- Crytochidism: This disorder may cause tumor development in the testicles.
- Klinefelter’s Syndrome: This disorder is characterized by a chromosomal anomoly found in males. Klinefelter’s syndrome may cause extracranial germ cell tumor development.
- Sawyer’s Syndrome: This disorder can cause tumor growths in the chest and central nervous system.
Half of the extracranial germ cell tumors are benign, or non-cancerous. Half of all benign tumors develop on the gonads, 25% develop in the coccyx and 5% develop on other extragonadal places, like the liver, central nervous system, chest and stomach.
This disease rarely occurs in children. Only 3% of the cases involve children under 15 years old. Those between 15 and 19 years of age make up 14% of the cases. Peculiarly, these numbers have continued to rise over the last couple of decades.
Signs and Symptoms
The location of the tumor plays a role in what symptoms will be present. Age and gender also play a part. Common signs and symptoms of extracranial germ cell tumor include:
- Urinary Retention
- Chest Pain
- Abnormal Shortness of Breath
- Leg Weakness
- Swelling that can be Felt or Seen
- Abnormal Testicular Shape or Size (sometimes associated with pain)
- Abnominal Pain in Females
Staging and Treatment
Treating extracranial germ cell tumor depends on the cancer’s stage. Extracranial germ cell tumor is divided into four different stages:
- Stage I: In this stage, the tumor has yet to spread to other portions of lumph nodes and surrounding tissues. At this point, surgery is used to remove the cancerous growths.
- Stage II: In this stage, some portions of the surrounding tissues and/or lymph nodes have been affected. This stage also necessitates surgical removal.
- Stage IV: In this stage, the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes, surrounding tissues and is found in the abdominal fluid. All of the cancer cells can’t be removed with surgery at this point. As a result, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and other treatment options may be used to kill cancer cells and/or slow cancerous cell proliferation.
- Stage IV: In this stage, the tumor has spread to other organs in the body. Some of the available treatment treatment options for Stage IV cancer include radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Hormonal replacement, antibiotics and bone marrow transplatation is used for follow-up care.
The prognosis of extracranial germ cell tumors all depend on a variety of factors, including the stage of the tumor, the size and location of the tumor, whether the tumor has spread, the patient’s response to the treatments and the tumor’s response to therapy.
Long-term survival associated with this disease varies depending on the aforementioned conditions. Follow-up care is constantly needed. Side effects are associated with certain treatments dealing with chemotherapy and radiation.
There are no known ways to prevent extracranial germ cell tumors.