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 signs
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
Age and gender can affect the risk of 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. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for malignant extragonadal germ cell tumors include the following:
Signs and symptoms of extragonadal germ cell tumors include breathing problems and chest pain.
Malignant extragonadal germ cell tumors may cause signs and symptoms as they grow into nearby areas. Other conditions
may cause the same signs and symptoms. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:
Imaging and blood tests are used to detect (find) and diagnose extragonadal germ cell tumors.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. The testicles may be checked for lumps, swelling, or pain. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
Chest x-ray: An x-ray
of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
Serum tumor marker test: A procedure in which a sample of blood
is examined 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. The following three tumor markers are used to detect extragonadal germ cell tumor:
Blood levels of the tumor markers help determine if the tumor is a seminoma or nonseminoma.
(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.
Sometimes a CT scan and a PET scan
are done at the same time. A PET scan is a procedure to find malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactiveglucose
(sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scanner
rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the body. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do.
When a PET scan and CT scan are done at the same time, it is called a PET-CT.
Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope
by a pathologist
to check for signs of cancer. The type of biopsy used depends on where the extragonadal germ cell tumor is found.