What is Germ Cell Cancer?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 June 2018
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Germ cell cancer is a condition that affects the cells that form a man’s sperm or a woman’s eggs. Usually, germ cells are found in a woman’s ovaries or in a man’s testicles, but they are also found in other parts of the body, such as in the brain. Formation in other parts of the body may occur due to germ cells that failed to migrate to the reproductive organs during the earliest stages of human development. In men, germ cell cancer is usually diagnosed as testicular cancer. In women, it is most likely to develop as ovarian cancer.

Though germ cell cancer affects cells related to the reproductive system, it isn’t limited to adults. It can inflict children too, though this is rare. In men from age 15 to 35, testicular germ cell tumors are the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer. In women with ovarian cancer, germ cell cancer is less frequently at fault, causing less than two percent of ovarian cancer cases.

Germ cell cancer can spread away from the germ cells and begin to affect other parts of a person’s body. When cancerous tumors spread, they are said to metastasize. Most frequently, germ cell cancers spread to organs like the lungs and liver, and they commonly affect the central nervous system and lymph nodes as well. They can also affect a person’s bones and other organs, but this type of spreading is considered rare.


No one knows for sure why germ cell cancer develops. Some scientific evidence suggests that inherited defects may play a role in its development. This may include not only defects involving the genital areas, but also defects of the urinary tract system, lower spine, and central nervous system. For example, some males have a condition in which their testes do not descend into the scrotum sac. This condition is called cryptorchidism and carries an increased risk of germ cell cancer of the testicles; however, many men have cryptorchidism without developing germ cell cancer.

Treatment for germ cell cancer depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to, the age of the patient and his health status and medical history. The stage of the cancer, where it has developed and whether or not it has spread to other parts of the body are also important considerations when making treatment decisions. The patient’s preferences and ability to tolerate certain procedures are also considered. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and bone marrow transplants. Doctors may also provide other treatments to help the patient deal with the effects of cancer treatment and antibiotics to prevent infections.



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