All You Need to Know About Germ Cell Tumor

All You Need to Know About Germ Cell Tumor

The term germ cell tumor includes a variety of different tumors that arise from the germ cells. The properties of these tumors are strongly dependent on gender.

What is a germ cell tumor?

Patients often suffer from bleeding or cysts. As with other cancers, this tumor can also spread to other regions, leading to severe limitations and complications. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Germ Cell Tumor.

A germ cell tumor originates in the germ cells of the organism. There are very different forms of this disease. The dignity (value or dangerousness of the course) of the tumors depends on the sex. In men, in addition to a few benign neoplasms, malignant masses often occur, while in women the tumor is usually benign.

Male germ cell tumors are divided into seminoma (seed originating) and non-seminoma. Seminomas are malignant testicular tumors that often appear between the ages of 30 and 40. Most germ cell tumors in men are seminomas. Nonseminomas in men include yolk sac tumor, choriocarcinoma, embryonic carcinoma, and teratoma. There are also malignant forms among non-seminomas. In women, a distinction is made between teratomas, yolk sac tumors, dysgerminoma and choriocarcinoma. Each of these different forms of germ cell tumors represent specific diseases with different prognosis for healing.


The causes of germ cell tumors are varied and depend on the type of tumor. Male seminomas are caused by the degeneration of the spermatogonia. As primordial sperm cells, spermatogonia are the stem cells in the germinal epithelium of the testicles. The degeneration of these cells occurs in different steps. First, in the gametes present as sperm cells, DNA increases, resulting in a tetraploid cell nucleus.

As the process progresses, the proportion of DNA decreases more and more, with the seminoma cells becoming aneuploid. That is, the number of chromosomes in the cell becomes completely irregular. As a result, aggressive cell growth takes place. Another germ cell tumor in men is embryonic carcinoma. Here scattered embryonic stem cells degenerate. This type of cancer often occurs between the ages of 20 and 30.

The germ cell tumors occurring in women are 95 percent mostly benign teratomas of the ovaries. Teratomas are stem cell growths. Depending on how differentiated the stem cells already are, the tumor can contain tissue from various organs, such as fatty tissue, muscles, hair, teeth, bone, cartilage, mucous membrane or nerve tissue. Men can get teratomas too.

Ovarian dysgerminoma, which can be compared to male seminoma, is specific to women. It arises from undifferentiated germ cells. Germ cell tumors affecting both sexes are the yolk sac tumor from undifferentiated cells of early embryogenesis and the choriocarcinoma from placental cells.

Symptoms, Signs & Ailments

The symptoms of each germ cell tumor are different. Teratomas are benign tumors of the ovaries or malignant tumors of the testicles, which arise from differently differentiated stem cells and can thus take on characteristics of certain types of tissue. Seminoma, on the other hand, becomes noticeable in men between the ages of 30 and 40 as a painless swelling of the testicles.

The success of treatment depends on the stage of the disease. Necrosis, bleeding and cysts occur in male embryonic carcinoma of the testicles. Female dysgerminoma corresponds to male seminoma and appears as a solid tumor on the genitals of girls, adolescents or pregnant women. Male choriocarcinoma is a special case. Because the starting cells of this germ cell tumor are embryonic placenta cells, gynecomastia (breast development) can occur.

Diagnosis & course of disease

The diagnosis of a germ cell tumor depends on what the disease is. Presumptive diagnoses can often be made based on the symptoms, but these still have to be confirmed by laboratory tests. For example, high concentrations of the pregnancy hormone hCG can be found in the blood of male choriocarcinoma, since this carcinoma develops from scattered placenta cells.


A germ cell tumor represents a very strong health restriction for the patient. If there is no treatment, the germ cell tumor can also lead to the death of the patient. It is not uncommon for the germ cell tumor to cause severe swelling in the testicles. This swelling is usually not associated with pain.

It is not uncommon for patients to also suffer from bleeding or cysts. As with other cancers, this tumor can also spread to other regions, leading to severe limitations and complications. The life expectancy of the patient is usually greatly reduced by this tumor. The patient continues to feel tired and exhausted. It is not uncommon for cancer patients to also suffer from psychological problems or depression.

The treatment of the germ cell tumor depends on the position of the tumor. In most cases, however, this can be surgically removed, which also requires chemotherapy. Psychological problems can also be treated by a psychologist. There are no further complications. The further course of the disease depends on the severity of the tumor.

When should you go to the doctor?

Changes in the sex organs in both men and women should be examined by a doctor. If there is swelling in the testicles or in the area of ​​the female genitals, the formation of cysts or other growths, a doctor is needed. In the event of irregularities in the female menstrual cycle, shortened or prolonged menstrual bleeding or a failure of menstruation, a doctor’s visit is required. A general feeling of illness, a feeling of tightness in the abdomen, inner restlessness or a feeling of being unwell are warning signs of the organism that should be clarified by a doctor.

Changes in the sex drive, listlessness, a diffuse pain sensation and other complaints during the sexual act must be examined more closely by a doctor. Since the germ cell tumor can be fatal without timely medical care, it is advisable to see a doctor as soon as the first abnormalities appear. If layers of tissue are dying off or if there is unexplained bleeding, a doctor should be consulted.

Tiredness, reduced performance and exhaustion are signs of an existing illness. If the symptoms persist for a long time, if they increase in intensity or if existing symptoms spread, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible. If there are psychological problems, behavioral problems or a depressed mood, it is advisable to consult a doctor to clarify the cause.

Treatment & Therapy

Different germ cell tumors respond to different treatment methods and also have different prognosis. Teratomas in women usually have a good prognosis. Malignant teratomas occur only in girls and young women, but they also respond poorly to radiation or chemotherapy.

In men, the course in childhood is usually benign, while metastases can develop in adults. Male seminoma is a malignant tumor of the testicles. Its treatment depends on the stage of the disease. Orchiectomy (removal of the affected testicle) is often required. After that, it is closely monitored. Chemotherapy is given if the disease recurs.

Since radiation can also have harmful side effects, it is only used at a later stage of the disease. If treated in the early stages of the disease, the risk of a recurrence is 20 percent if the therapy is not continued. The use of the medication also depends on the stage of the disease. In the therapy of non-seminomas, an orchiectomy is also performed.

Your further treatment also depends on the stage or type of disease. If the progression is benign, no further therapy is required. Chemotherapy is used for recurrences. The lymph nodes in the back of the abdomen can be removed as a preventive measure. In non-seminoma patients, immediate treatment of the germ cell tumor with chemotherapy is necessary for lymph node metastases and metastases in other organs.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis for a germ cell tumor depends on the nature of the tumor and the stage at which the diagnosis is made. The prognosis for a benign tumor is significantly better than for a malignant one. In addition, the general state of health of the patient is decisive for the further course of the disease.

With a weakened immune system, the treatment options and their success are limited. With an early diagnosis and a quick start of treatment, a recovery can be documented in a large number of patients in the further course. Without medical care, those affected are threatened with the spread of cancer cells and premature death. The same applies to an advanced stage of the disease and a malignant germ cell tumor.

Cancer therapy is associated with numerous side effects and risks. Complications can occur. In addition, it is a long-term therapy that limits the patient’s quality of life. If an operation is performed, further complications can occur.

Nevertheless, the prospect of a favorable prognosis has improved significantly in recent years. Due to various therapeutic approaches and treatment options, the survival rate of patients has increased significantly. In the course of life, despite recovery, a new tumor can form at any time. The prognosis is unchanged if another germ cell tumor develops.


General prevention of germ cell tumors is not possible. Their causes often lie in a dysregulation of hormonal processes. However, undescended testicles are considered a major risk of testicular cancer. The testicle remains in the groin area or migrates back there. Other risk factors for germ cell tumors can also lie in a genetic predisposition.


Follow-up care is inevitable after every tumor disease. This is to determine whether the tumor is forming again. Doctors expect better treatment options from a diagnosis in the early stages. Life-threatening metastases and thus the spread can also be ruled out in this way. It is no different with germ cell tumors.

The scheduled follow-up examinations are agreed individually. They usually take place in the clinic where the first intervention was performed. Among other things, the progress of the disease at the start of therapy is decisive for the rhythm. In principle, patients in the first year have to deal with repeated follow-up examinations. The distance from one date to the next continues to decrease in the following years.

After five years of being symptom-free, annual follow-up care is sufficient. The risk of recurrence is low. The same procedures used for the initial diagnosis are used to diagnose a germ cell tumor. In addition to a detailed discussion, blood tests and radiological procedures are important components of the aftercare.

Doctors also provide information about contact and advice centers. If necessary, professional reintegration will be discussed. If symptoms persist after the initial treatment, accompanying pain therapy is indicated. A fundamental change in lifestyle can, under certain circumstances, be conveyed in rehabilitation under expert guidance.

You can do that yourself

In the case of an existing germ cell tumor, there are only limited options or measures that can help affected people to improve. Early and rapid diagnosis is important so that appropriate therapy can be initiated. Only if you go to the doctor immediately and promptly are the chances of a full recovery good.

Home remedies or over-the-counter prescriptions will have no effect on an existing germ cell tumor. If there is a malignant tumor, chemotherapy may even be necessary in order to achieve a full recovery. Even after the therapy has been completed, regular visits to the doctor are recommended and essential. This can prevent the tumor from recurring and complications from occurring.

For this reason, the following applies: In the case of a germ cell tumor, you can only take certain measures to improve it. In order for the human body to be able to recover quickly from the therapy, a healthy and balanced diet is also very important. This strengthens the immune system so that rapid regeneration can be initiated. Otherwise there are no effective measures that can bring about an improvement.

Germ Cell Tumor