Ovarian Germ Cell Tumor

Learning you and your child has an ovarian germ cell tumor is upsetting. The good news is most of the time these tumors aren’t cancer. Instead, these growths are benign so won't spread to other parts of the body. And most women who get these tumors can have children after they get treated. 

Ovarian germ cell tumors most often affect just one ovary. They're usually found in teen girls or young women. But women in their 60s can get this tumor.

While rare, germ cell tumors can become cancerous. Even if you have this type of cancer, there's a good chance it can be cured.

Why UVA Health for Ovarian Germ Cell Tumor Treatment?

At UVA Health, you'll find experts who specialize in treating all types of ovarian tumors and cancer, including germ cell.

These cancer doctors are known as gynecologic oncologists. They'll oversee all aspects of your care. 

With germ cell ovarian tumors, you may need different types of treatment including:

  • Surgery
  • Observation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.

  • High-dose chemotherapy with bone marrow transplant

Who's at Risk for Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors?

No one knows exactly why some women get ovarian germ cell tumors. But you're more likely to develop this type of tumor if you have a birth defect affecting the:

  • Nervous system
  • Genitals
  • Urinary tract

You're also at higher risk if you have a certain genetic condition that causes extra or missing sex chromosomes. 

These factors increase your chance for ovarian cancer:

  • Family history of ovarian cancer, especially in mother, sister or daughter
  • Age: 50 or older
  • Menstrual history—first period before age 12, no childbirth or first childbirth after age 30, and late menopause
  • Personal history of breast cancer or endometrial cancer
  • Certain gene mutations, including BRCA1, BRCA2
     

If you have a family history of ovarian cancer, you'll want to tap the expertise of our high-risk ovarian cancer program.

ovarian tumor illustration
Cancerous Mass in the Left Ovary Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

What Are Symptoms of Ovarian Germ Cell Tumor?

The ovaries are located on each side of the uterus (the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a fetus grows). Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. Ovarian germ cell tumors start in the ovary cells that make eggs.

Ovarian germ cell tumors can be hard to diagnose (find) early. Often there are no symptoms in the early stages. But tumors may be found during regular gynecologic exams (checkups). Check with your doctor if you have either of the following:

  • Swollen abdomen without weight gain in other parts of the body.
  • Bleeding from the vagina after menopause (when you are no longer having menstrual periods).

How Is Ovarian Cancer Found?

Tests we use to diagnose ovarian cancer may include:

  • Physical exam and history
  • Pelvic Exam, your doctor will use her gloved finger to check your:
    • Uterus
    • Vagina
    • Ovaries
    • Fallopian tubes
    • Bladder
    • Rectum
  • Diagnostic Tests
    • Laparotomy
    • CT scan
    • Serum tumor marker test