Germinomas,Teratoms & Nongerminomas - Germ Cell Tumors 

Symptoms of Germ Cell Tumors of the Brain
Symptoms usually reflect the location of the tumors in the head and brain.
  • Tumors within the skull, or cranium
    • Pineal region – The pineal gland is located deep within the brain. Tumors located in the pineal region are often associated with headaches and vision problems.
    • Above the sella turcica – The pituitary gland is located deep in the brain, above a structure called the sella turcica. This location is referred to as the “suprasellar” region. Germ cell tumors in this location may press against the pituitary gland and cause hormone-related symptoms.
  • Within the mouth – A particular kind of germ cell tumor, a teratoma, is often located here. 

Diagnostic procedure usually will include imaging studies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Because germ cell tumors tend to spread through the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), doctors may also want to get a sample of that fluid by performing a lumbar puncture (also referred to as a spinal tap) in which a needle is inserted between the spinal vertebrae into the spinal cord to withdraw a sample of fluid. Imaging studies and the analysis of your CSF will help your doctors to develop a treatment plan and to monitor your response to treatment. 

Blood tests can also be useful in diagnosing germ cell tumors. Your doctors may want to look for tumor markers in your blood or CSF or check the levels of hormones that may be altered if a tumor is pressing on a gland within your brain. The following tests may be used to investigate suspected germ cell tumors in your brain: 
  • Tumor markers are molecules that are present on the surface of tumor cells, but absent or present in smaller amounts on normal cells. These molecules can be released into the blood or CSF so that their levels  will be elevated when a tumor is present.  Alpha-fetoprotein is a tumor marker for germ cell tumors.
  • Hormones are normal substances, but tumors may be an abnormal source. Beta-human chorionic gonadotropin is prodiced in excess by some but not all germ cell tumors.

Treating Germ Cell Tumors in the Brain
There are several different types of germ cell tumors, and treatment varies according to the type of tumor. Most patients with germ cell cancer will need to be treated with combination chemotherapy for at least 3 cycles.
  • Germinomas may be treated with radiation and/or chemotherapy.
  • Teratomas may be treated first with surgery, followed by radiation or chemotherapy.
  • Nongerminomas may be treated first with chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy. Another option is to use very high doses of chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells. This treatment also destroys the stem cells that produce blood cells. To overcome this, the patient’s stem cells are harvested before chemotherapy and infused after the chemotherapy. 

Doctors at Kenneth R. Peak Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment & Research Center  provide the highest level of experience and expertise to ensure the best possible outcome by selecting from among the many different options in neurosurgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy available here. You will also find that your care is provided in an atmosphere of compassion. 
Kenneth R. Peak Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment & Research Center 
Houston Methodist Hospital - Texas Medical Center
6445 Main Street, Outpatient Center, Floor 24
Houston, TX 77030