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A rare cancer that develops in germ cells that are found in areas of the body other than the ovary or testicle (such as the brain, chest, abdomen, or tailbone). Germ cells are reproductive cells that develop into sperm in males and eggs in females.
"Extragonadal" means outside of the gonads (sex organs). When cells that are meant to form sperm in the testicles or eggs in the ovaries travel to other parts of the body, they may grow into extragonadal germ cell tumours. These tumours may begin to grow anywhere in the body but usually begin in organs such as the pineal gland in the brain, in the mediastinum, or in the abdomen.
Extragonadal germ cell tumours can be benign (noncancer) or malignant (cancer). Benign extragonadal germ cell tumours are called benign teratomas. These are more common than malignant extragonadal germ cell tumours and often are very large.
Malignant extragonadal germ cell tumours are divided into two types, nonseminoma and seminoma. Nonseminomas tend to grow and spread more quickly than seminomas. They usually are large and cause symptoms. If untreated, malignant extragonadal germ cell tumours may spread to the lungs, lymph nodes, bones, liver, or other parts of the body.
For information about germ cell tumours in the ovaries and testicles, see the following summaries in the A-Z List of Cancers:
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 tumours include the following:
Malignant extragonadal germ cell tumours may cause symptoms as they grow into nearby areas. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following problems:
The following tests and procedures may be used:
Blood levels of the tumour markers help determine if the tumour is a seminoma or nonseminoma.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
For more information on Extragonadal Germ Cell tumour click here
This link is to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer website in the United States. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.
Page last updated: 07/05/2020