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Germ Cell Tumors Treatment

Germ cells in the human body are responsible for developing into sperm and eggs and are usually located in the testicles or ovaries. However, in some rare cases, they can be found outside of these areas if they developed while the baby was still in the womb.

If these germ cells divide abnormally, they will turn into a tumor that mostly affects children and is located in the testicles for boys and in the ovaries for girls. If a germ cell is located outside of the areas where it typically appears, a tumor can also develop in the brain, chest, lower spine and back of the stomach.

This is typically an extremely treatable illness, and there are multiple different treatment options doctors can use for germ cell tumors.

Treatments options for Germ Cell Tumors:

It is important to point out that germ cell tumors can be both benign and malignant, meaning they can be cancerous and non-cancerous.

If an oncologist discovers the presence of a malignant germ cell tumor, the next thing they will do is determine its staging and severity. Finally, they will proceed with the best possible treatment option for that patient’s specific case.


Tumor resection surgery requires a doctor, typically a surgical oncologist, to remove as many tumor cells as possible from the patient. Some germ cell tumors, especially those that are in their early stages, can easily be treated with only surgery, while others will require additional treatment.

If the patient is male, the surgeon will make a small incision in the groin, and remove the tumor and one or even both testicles, depending on the severity of the disease.

If they are female, the surgeon will make a small incision in the abdomen, remove the ovary that was affected, resect the tumor, and possibly remove the fallopian tube as well.

Ideally, the surgeon removing the tumor will do everything in their power to preserve the patient’s fertility.

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Chemotherapy is often given to germ cell tumor patients as surgery alone is rarely enough. Chemotherapy involves the use of specific drugs that are given to patients in multiple rounds in hopes it will get rid of the cancerous cells.

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Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that mobilizes the body’s immune system to fight cancer. In cases of resistance to treatment or recurrence, immunotherapy has demonstrated effectiveness against germ cell tumors.

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Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy, also known as simply radiotherapy, is a type of treatment that involves the use of powerful radiation to destroy cancer cells within the body. Radiotherapy is often used against germ cell tumors because these tumors are exceptionally sensitive to radiation.

Treatment Side Effects

After a patient goes through treatment for their germ cell tumor, they will experience certain side effects. These side effects will differ based on the type of treatment they received, but also how long the treatment process lasted and their overall health.

  • Surgery side effects. After a patient goes through surgery to remove their tumor, they will most likely experience some sort of pain or discomfort. However, this can easily be relieved with some medication. Another possible side effect of surgery is blood loss or blood clotting.
  • Chemotherapy side effects. Chemotherapy can have multiple different side effects, depending on what type of drugs were used, how long the treatment lasted and how intense it was. That being said, the most common side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, easy bleeding and bruising, fatigue and mouth sores.
  • Immunotherapy side effects. After
    immunotherapy, the most common side effects a patient may experience are typical flu-like symptoms. These include weakness, fever, dizziness, chills, nausea and vomiting, and low or high blood pressure.
  • Radiotherapy side effects. The most common side effects of radiotherapy include nausea and vomiting, fatigue, skin changes, painful mouth and throat sores, skin changes and thick saliva. All of these are temporary, however, radiation can also cause permanent lung damage in some rare cases, which can lead to long-term shortness of breath and breathing problems.

Side effects can appear during or after treatment, and in some cases, it can take a while until they surface. It’s also important to remember that everyone reacts differently to cancer treatment and also experiences side effects differently.

The best thing to do when experiencing side effects is to talk to a doctor and figure out the best ways to deal with any issue and discomfort the patient is experiencing. 

Follow-up Care

After a patient enters remission, they will still need to receive follow-up care. This is the process that starts after treatment has ended and it involves regular visits to the healthcare provider. Follow-up care is always necessary after cancer treatment and it’s typically life-long. 

Children who are in remission after treatment for germ cell tumors receive follow-up care in the form of physical examinations and a variety of medical examinations including X-rays and blood tests. During these checkups, doctors keep track of how the patient is recovering.

The main focus during the follow-up exams will be to see if the symptoms are subsiding, check for any signs that the cancer is recurring and look for any late side effects of the treatment that was given.

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Sheba Medical Center provides innovative, personalized medical care to patients from around the world. We are the largest, most comprehensive hospital in the Middle East and dedicated to providing advanced and compassionate medicine for everyone. We welcome all cases, including the rarest and the most challenging. Our medical teams collaborate to provide the best possible health outcomes. From your initial inquiry through the long-term follow-up care, we are here for you.

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