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Germ Cell Tumor: Symptoms, Types, And Treatment

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 20, 2022

Germ Cell Tumor: Symptoms, Types, And Treatment

Germ cells are embryonic cells that normally develop into reproductive cells. In girls, they make egg cells; in boys, they turn into sperm cells. Sometimes, however, germ cells grow into tumors, which can be non-cancerous or cancerous. Let’s discuss the germ cell tumor symptoms, its types, and treatment options. 

Germ Cell Tumors Symptoms And Location

Before we talk about the different germ cell tumor symptoms, let’s first identify where these tumors grow. 

Given that they normally become reproductive cells, most tumors grow in the testicles or ovaries. However, there are rare cases where tumors grow in the abdomen, chest, or brain. These are called extragonadal tumors, and the exact reason why they occur is still unknown. 

Below are the possible germ cell tumor symptoms:

Gonadal Tumors

For girls, ovarian tumors may be hard to detect as they don’t often produce symptoms until the mass is already large. Hence, diagnosis may not happen until the girl is at least 10 years old. One of the possible signs is swelling in the abdomen. 

For boys, the common sign is swelling and pain in the testicle. It’s usually detected early because the symptoms are quite noticeable. 

Extragonadal Tumors

Germ cell tumor symptoms that occur outside the ovary or testicles vary depending on the location. 

In the chest area, the tumor may result in chest pain, cough, breathing difficulties, and even fever. 

Germ cell tumor in the brain may lead to symptoms, such as dizziness, vomiting, irritability, vision problems, trouble with balance, and fatigue. 

In case the tumor grows in the spine, it may lead to leg weakness. In the pelvis, the tumor may result in constipation or incontinence. 


Now that we have a clearer picture of the germ cell tumor symptoms, let’s talk about the types. 

Like mentioned earlier, germ cell tumors can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). The types of germ cell tumors are:

  • Teratomas, the most common extragonadal germ cell tumors, are usually benign but can be malignant. 
  • Germinomas in the ovary (dysgerminomas) and testes (seminomas) are typically malignant. 
  • Embryonal carcinoma, which commonly happens in the testicles of adolescent boys, are malignant. 
  • Endodermal sinus tumor, which is malignant, and usually develops in the ovary, testes, and tailbone. 
  • Choriocarcinoma, which develops during pregnancy and might affect both mother and child. 

Identifying whether the germ cell tumor is benign or malignant is crucial because it affects the treatment options. 


If you or your child has germ cell tumor symptoms, it’s best to consult a doctor as soon as possible. On top of a thorough health interview and physical assessment, they might also ask you to have:

  • Imaging tests, like X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and ultrasound. 
  • Blood tests to check how the organs are functioning. The liver, for example, releases alpha-fetoprotein, which is a tumor marker. High levels can suggest a germ cell tumor. 
  • Biopsy, where they take a sample of the tumor for examination. 


Benign tumors won’t respond to chemotherapy, hence the option is usually surgery. Kids might also have surgery to remove as much of the cancerous growth as possible. 

Ultimately, treatment depends on the type, stage, and extent of the condition. In some cases, radiation therapy is enough. In others, they might need chemotherapy. There are also instances when the patient needs surgery and chemotherapy. 

Key Takeaways

Germ cells normally grow to be reproductive cells (egg cells and sperm cells). However, they might develop into tumors. 
Germ cell tumor symptoms primarily depend on where it grows. In the ovaries, it’s typically hard to detect due to the lack of symptoms. In the testes, it might be spotted early because the swelling and the pain are quite noticeable. Treatment also depends on the type, location, and extent of the tumor.

Learn more about Cancer here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

John Paul Abrina, MD

Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 20, 2022

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