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Extragonadal Germ Cell Tumors Treatment

General Information About Extragonadal Germ Cell Tumors

Extragonadal germ cell tumors form from developing sperm or egg cells that travel from the gonads to other parts of the body.

“Extragonadal” means outside of the gonads (sex organs). When cells that are meant to form sperm in the testicles or eggs in the ovaries travel to other parts of the body, they may grow into extragonadal germ cell tumors. These tumors may begin to grow anywhere in the body but usually begin in organs such as the pineal gland in the brain, in the mediastinum, or in the abdomen.

Extragonadal germ cell tumors can be benign (noncancer) or malignant (cancer). Benign extragonadal germ cell tumors are called benign teratomas. These are more common than malignant extragonadal germ cell tumors and often are very large.

Malignant extragonadal germ cell tumors are divided into two types, nonseminoma and seminoma. Nonseminomas tend to grow and spread more quickly than seminomas. They usually are large and cause symptoms. If untreated, malignant extragonadal germ cell tumors may spread to the lungs, lymph nodes, bones, liver, or other parts of the body.

For information about germ cell tumors in the ovaries and testicles, see the following PDQ summaries:

Age and gender can affect the risk of developing extragonadal germ cell tumors.

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. Risk factors for malignant extragonadal germ cell tumors include the following:

Possible signs of extragonadal germ cell tumors include chest pain and breathing problems.

Malignant extragonadal germ cell tumors may cause symptoms as they grow into nearby areas. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:

Imaging and blood tests are used to detect (find) and diagnose extragonadal germ cell tumors.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following: