Ovarian Germ Cell Tumor | Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center | Loyola Medicine

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Ovarian Germ Cell Tumor

Overview and Facts

Ovarian germ cell tumors are a rare, malignant (cancerous) disease that develops in the egg-producing cells in the ovaries. These tumors usually only develop in one ovary and teenage or young adult women are at a higher risk. The most common type of ovarian germ cell tumor is called a dysgerminoma.

Why Choose Loyola for Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors?

At Loyola, our expert doctors are committed to treating the whole person, not just the gynecologic cancer. The Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center provides expanded clinics, diagnostic capabilities and laboratories for the gynecologic oncology program.

Loyola doctors, specializing in the treatment of gynecologic cancer, provide state-of-the-art diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for our patients. As a leading medical center, Loyola has extensive expertise in radical surgeries, minimally invasive surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  Our interdisciplinary team of specialists works together to develop individualized treatment plans that result in the best outcomes for our patients.

Symptoms and Signs of Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors

Although symptoms are seldom felt when ovarian germ cell tumors are in their earlier stages, they can be found during a routine pelvic exam. Common symptoms (when the tumor is at a more advance stage) include:

  • Swelling of the abdomen without weight gain
  • Bleeding from the vagina after menopause

Causes and Risk Factors of Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors

The cause of ovarian germ cell tumors is unknown, but they tend to develop in utero when the cells that normally migrate to the sex organs fail to do so. They have also been linked to children with extra genetic material. In general, risk factors include:

  • Age (teenage girls and young women are at a higher risk)
  • Race: African Americans and whites are more likely to develop this disease than other races

How Are Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors Diagnosed?

Your Loyola doctor will begin by reviewing your medical history and performing a thorough physical and pelvic exam. Additional tests include:

  • Blood tests: samples are taken for blood chemistry and checked for tumor markers such as an increased level of alpha fetoprotein (AFP) and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG).
  • Imaging tests: CT Scan, MRI, X-ray and/or Ultrasound
  • Biopsy: Removal of a sample of tissue and cells to examine in a lab for signs of cancer

How Are Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors Treated?

Certain factors, such as tumor size, stage, location and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body affect your treatment options. The most common forms of treatment are surgery and/or chemotherapy.

Surgeries to treat ovarian germ cell tumors include:

  • Debulking surgery (removal of as much of the tumor as possible)
  • Total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix)
  • Unilateral or bilateral salpingo-oophrectomy (removal of one or both ovaries)

Chemotherapy may be used in a combination with surgery to ensure that all the cancer cells have been eliminated.                                                                                            

As a female oncology patient at Loyola, you will receive the most advanced care from a team of specialists that include:

  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Social workers
  • Specialty radiologists

Loyola is committed to developing new and effective therapies for gynecologic tumors, with the goal of increasing cancer survival. As a top-ranking academic medical center, Loyola has access to the most current treatment options. In addition to clinical trials, we offer genetics testing, radiation oncology and state-of-the-art laparoscopic and robotic surgical procedures.

Prevention, Early Detection and Screening for Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors

Because the cause of ovarian germ cell tumors is unknown, there is no way to prevent it from developing. However, if it is found early, the cure rate for this type of tumor is very high. Regular pelvic exams can help you catch it early. You should see your Loyola doctor right away if you notice any of the symptoms of ovarian germ cell tumor.

Learn more about the gynecologic cancer screening guidelines that Loyola follows for the early detection of gynecologic cancers.