Germ cell tumors can appear at any age. They develop from cells that produce eggs or sperm so germ cell tumors can affect the ovaries or testes. However, it is possible for a germ cell tumor to develop in other parts of the body.
As a baby develops during pregnancy, the cells producing eggs or sperm normally move to the ovaries or testes. However, occasionally they can settle in other parts of the body where they can develop into tumors. The most common places for this to happen are the bottom of the spine (sacrococcygeal), the brain, chest, and abdomen.
Germ cell tumors are sometimes given different names based on their characteristics. These include yolk-sac tumors, germinomas, embryonal carcinomas, mature teratomas and immature teratomas.
They may be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Malignant tumors have the ability to grow and spread to other parts of the body.
Benign tumors do not spread but may cause problems by pressing on nearby tissue and organs.
Immature teratomas fall between benign and malignant. They can spread within the abdomen but not beyond, and can be removed with an operation.
Common signs of germ cell tumors include: