Did you say “germ cells”? Yes, but not the kind of germs that cause infection.

What is a Germ Cell?

Germ cells develop into the reproductive sex organs – testicles in guys and ovaries in girls. Germ cells can travel to other areas of the body, such as the chest, abdomen, tailbone, or brain. Germ cell tumors account for about 16% of teen cancers in the U.S. Adolescents and very young children are at increased risk for developing these tumors.

Types of Germ Cell Tumors…

The major types of germ cell tumors that teens get are:

  • Testicular – within the testes of older boys.
  • Sacral – in the sacrum, a triangular-shaped section of fused bone located between the hip bones at the base of the spine and the tailbone
  • Chest
  • Ovarian – found in egg-making cells in a girl’s ovaries.

Treatment for Germ Cell Tumors…

There are two primary treatment options for germ cell tumors:

If the tumor cannot be completely removed, chemotherapy may also be given.

What’s next?

Treatment for germ cell tumors has improved drastically. Combination chemotherapy has improved so much that most patients (80%) can expect to be cured. While response to chemotherapy is quite good, some patients with germ cell tumors may have a recurrence or relapse. Close follow-up for a long period of time is very important as relapses/recurrences have been known to happen as long as 10 years from diagnosis.