As the name implies, these tumors arise from various “germ cells” found in the brain. They can be either benign or malignant.
Germ cell tumors arise in the pineal or suprasellar regions of the brain.
Germ cell tumors include the germinoma, the teratoma, the more aggressive embryonal carcinoma and yolk sac (endodermal sinus) tumors and the choriocarcinoma. Mixed germ cell tumors also exist. Because all these tumors tend to spread via the cerebrospinal fluid, diagnosis includes a check of the entire brain and spinal cord.
Symptoms depend on the location of the tumor. Patients with tumors in the pineal region usually have headache and vision problems. Patients with tumors in the suprasellar region usually have hormone-related issues .
These uncommon tumors represent 3-5% of childhood brain tumors and occur primarily in young people between the ages of 11 and 30.
Brain tumors cannot be prevented. Like many tumor types, the exact cause of germ cell tumors is not known.
Because of their location, most germ cell tumors are treated with chemotherapy or a combination of radiation and chemotherapy rather than surgery. However, a biopsy to establish an exact diagnosis is not uncommon, and some very experienced surgeons have had success removing certain pineal region tumors. Surgery may be necessary to treat hydrocephalus (excess water in the brain) caused by a blockage, by the tumor, or the cerebrospinal fluid pathways.
Learn more about different treatment options for brain tumors on our Treatment page.
New approaches to treatment are currently in development. These new therapies are offered in organized research studies called clinical trials. Click here to access TrialConnect®, the ABTA's clinical trial match service.