As a fetus develops, cells form in eggs in the ovaries or sperm in the testicles. Rarely, these cells travel to other parts of the body and grow into germ cell tumors. Germ cell tumors may be either cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign) and may occur in the chest, abdomen or brain. Germ cell tumors that form outside the testes or ovaries are known as extragonadal germ cell tumors. Benign extragonadal germ cell tumors are called benign teratomas. These tumors are usually diagnosed with imaging such as CT scans combined with blood tests but may also require a surgical biopsy for analysis. Treatment usually requires a combination of chemotherapy and surgery.
The Lung Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) uses the most current diagnostic methods and offers proven treatments for patients with germ cell tumors of the mediastinum, including minimally invasive surgical techniques aided by video and robotic technology. We are the surgical team for Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), an exceptional collaboration between two world-class medical centers.
Extragonadal germ cell tumors can be subdivided into:
Risk factors for developing extragonadal germ cell tumors of the mediastinum include:
While not everyone with these tumors has symptoms, the following symptoms may be associated with extragonadal germ cell tumors:
Your BWH thoracic surgeon will likely conduct the following tests and procedures to diagnose extragonadal germ cell tumors:
Patients who have benign teratomas or who have tumors remaining after chemotherapy or radiation therapy may need to have surgery in order to remove these tumors completely. At BWH, our thoracic surgeons are experts in the use of minimally invasive surgical techniques such as video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) and robotic-assisted mediastinal tumor resection, alternatives to open chest surgery.
When you become a patient of The Lung Center you will meet many members of the team who will carefully review your medical history and studies. In addition, you will receive a thorough diagnostic examination, after which you will receive a recommendation for a therapy tailored just for you based on your specific diagnosis.
Germ cell tumor patients benefit from the wide range of specialists at The Lung Center, including thoracic surgeons, thoracic oncologists, pulmonologists, cardiovascular medicine physicians and thoracic imaging experts. They work in close collaboration with the Mediastinal Tumors Program; this collaboration ensures comprehensive diagnosis and targeted treatment for patients.
Any recommended surgery will be performed by an experienced, board-certified surgeon in collaboration with a treatment team including nurses and physician assistants, all of whom specialize in taking care of patients with germ cell tumors.
Go to our online health library to learn more about thoracic diseases and tests.
Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center where patients and families can access computers and knowledgeable staff.
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