Genital Tumors

Genital tumors are more accurately called germ cell tumors (germ as in germinate, or to give life, rather than as in bacteria). Germ cells are the reproductive cells found to develop into testicles for males and ovaries in females. These tumors are believed to be caused by the germ cells that migrate through a developing fetus that fail to reach the exact location. Germ cell cancers are fairly rare, occurring in only 4 percent of all childhood cancers.

Germ cell tumors appear primarily in the sex organs, but can occasionally be found in the abdomen, the chest cavity and the brain. The major types of germ cell tumors vary depending on the age of the child and the location of the tumor.

Fetal/neonatal germ cell tumors are usually found outside of the sex organs and are not generally malignant, but can cause birth complications.

Testicular germ cell tumors can occur in young boys or in adolescent, young men. The tumor will have varying characteristics depending on the age of the boy. Some types are more responsive to chemotherapy.

Extragonadal extracranial germ cell tumor is outside of the gonad, or sex organ, but not in the brain. This can mean that it is located in the abdomen or chest cavity (typically in older patients) or in the pelvic region or tailbone (typically in younger patients).

Ovarian germ cell tumors occur in adolescent girls or young women found in the egg-producing cells of the ovary.

Many factors affect recovery rate and treatment options:

  • Location of tumor
    Tumors found within the gonads, or sex organs, can be more easily treated than those in other parts of the body (extragonadal tumors).
  • Stage of tumor
    As with many cancers, Stage I and II tumors are more easily cured. The earlier the tumor is detected, the better chance for removal and treatment.
  • Tumor characteristics
    Benign germ cell tumors have excellent recoveries with surgery. Malignant tumors are generally treated with both surgery and chemotherapy.
  • Age at diagnosis
    Younger patients show higher recovery rates than those diagnosed after 15 years of age.