Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors Treatment
General Information About Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors
Key Points for this Section
Ovarian germ cell tumor is a disease in which malignant
(cancer) cells form in the germ (egg) cells of the ovary.
Germ cell tumors begin
in the reproductive cells (egg or
sperm) of the body. Ovarian germ
cell tumors usually occur in teenage girls or young women and most often affect
just one ovary.
The ovaries are a pair of organs in the female
reproductive system. They are
located in the pelvis, one on each
side of the uterus (the hollow,
pear-shaped organ where a fetus
grows). Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries
produce eggs and female hormones
(chemicals that control the way certain cells or organs function). Anatomy of the female reproductive system. The organs in the female reproductive system include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, and vagina. The uterus has a muscular outer layer called the myometrium and an inner lining called the endometrium.
Anatomy of the female reproductive system. The organs in the female reproductive system include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, and vagina. The uterus has a muscular outer layer called the myometrium and an inner lining called the endometrium.
Ovarian germ cell tumor is a general name that is used to describe
several different types of cancer. The
most common ovarian germ cell tumor is called dysgerminoma. (See the PDQ
summaries on Ovarian Epithelial Cancer
Treatment and Ovarian
Low Malignant Potential Tumors Treatment for information
about other types of ovarian cancers.)
Possible signs of ovarian germ cell tumor are swelling of the
abdomen or vaginal bleeding after menopause.
Ovarian germ cell tumors can be difficult to diagnose (find) early.
Often there are no symptoms in the
early stages, but
tumors may be found during regular
gynecologic examinations (checkups). A woman who has swelling of the
abdomen without weight gain in other
places should see a doctor. A woman who no longer has
menstrual periods (who has gone
through menopause) should also see a
doctor if she has bleeding from the vagina.
Tests that examine the ovaries, pelvic area, blood, and ovarian
tissue are used to detect (find) and diagnose ovarian germ cell tumor.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
- Pelvic exam: An exam of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and rectum. The doctor or nurse inserts one or two lubricated, gloved fingers of one hand into the vagina and the other hand is placed over the lower abdomen to feel the size, shape, and position of the uterus and ovaries. A speculum is also inserted into the vagina and the doctor or nurse looks at the vagina and cervix for signs of disease. A Pap test or Pap smear of the cervix is usually done. The doctor or nurse also inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for lumps or abnormal areas.Pelvic exam. A doctor or nurse inserts one or two lubricated, gloved fingers of one hand into the vagina and presses on the lower abdomen with the other hand. This is done to feel the size, shape, and position of the uterus and ovaries. The vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, and rectum are also checked.
- Laparotomy: A surgical procedure in which an incision (cut) is made in the wall of the abdomen to check the inside of the abdomen for signs of disease. The size of the incision depends on the reason the laparotomy is being done. Sometimes organs are removed or tissue samples are taken for biopsy.
- Lymphangiogram: A procedure used to x-ray the lymph system. A dye is injected into the lymph vessels in the feet. The dye travels upward through the lymph nodes and lymph vessels, and x-rays are taken to see if there are any blockages. This test helps find out whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
- CT scan (CAT scan):
A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
- Serum tumor marker test: A procedure in which a sample of blood is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs, tissues, or tumor cells in the body. Certain substances are linked to specific types of cancer when found in increased levels in the blood. These are called tumor markers. An increased level of alpha fetoprotein (AFP) or human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the blood may be a sign of ovarian germ cell tumor.
Certain factors affect prognosis
(chance of recovery and treatment options).
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on
- The type
- The size of the tumor.
- The stage of cancer (whether it affects part
of the ovary, involves the whole ovary, or has spread to other places in the
- The way the cancer cells look under a microscope.
- The patient’s
Ovarian germ cell tumors are generally curable if found and