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Germ cell tumors in the body

Every year, approximately 12-15 children in the Netherlands are diagnosed with a germ cell tumor in the body. The tumor can occur at any age and just as often in boys as in girls.

The brochure entitled Germ cell tumors contains comprehensive information about this disease. The most important information is provided below.

Causes

Germ cell tumors are caused by a developmental error in one of the reproductive cells. Presumably, something has already changed in the cell's DNA in the nucleus before birth. The cause of that change is unknown. Germ cell tumors occur in the reproductive organs, but can also occur elsewhere.


Symptoms

The symptoms depend on the location of the tumor. A tumor in the bottom region of the spinal column can cause visible swelling. If the tumor has grown inward, your child might suffer bladder and bowel dysfunction or they might have behavioral disorders. If a germ cell tumor occurs in the testicle, the scrotum is swollen; this is not very painful, if at all. A tumor in or near the ovary will eventually cause the abdomen to swell. The tumor can cause the ovary to rotate, which is very painful. In the event of a large tumor, the bladder and/or intestines can be flattened. Your child then has to urinate often and has difficulty defecating. The production of hormones can cause a child to enter early (precocious) puberty. A tumor in the chest can cause breathing problems.

How is a germ cell tumor in the body diagnosed?

An ultrasound and an MRI scan are performed and blood is drawn. Other scans can also be performed, as well as a biopsy in some instances.

Treatment

Most children are only required to have surgery, after which they are monitored by means of regular check-ups. If the tumor cannot be removed completely or if the tumor has metastasized, your child is given chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy treatment. In the event of a large tumor, chemotherapy is usually the first course of treatment, followed by surgery, followed by a second course of chemotherapy. If the tumor recurs, surgery is usually performed again, followed by more chemotherapy.

Chance of recovery

On average, children with a germ cell tumor stand a 90% chance of recovery%. 

Questions?

Children and adolescents with a germ cell tumor in their body are treated in the solid tumors department.