Cancers and Tumors

Germ Cell Tumor Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Germ Cell Tumors

Symptoms of germ cell tumors can vary based on where the tumor is. For example, if a germ cell tumor forms in the brain, your child may have symptoms of a brain tumor, such as trouble with movement or balance or changes in senses or personality. But a germ cell tumor in a different part of the body would cause different symptoms.

Here are some typical symptoms of germ cell tumors depending on the tumor location. Some of the same symptoms can also be caused by other problems that are not cancer. So it's important for a child with symptoms like these to see a doctor to find out the cause.

  • In boys only, a painless mass or swelling in the sac that holds the testicles (scrotum)
  • Mass in the belly, unusual increase in waist size, pain in the belly or constipation, for a tumor in the abdomen or in a girl's ovaries
  • Mass near the anus, constipation or not being able to urinate, for a tumor in the bones at the base of the spine (the sacrum and the coccyx, or tailbone)
  • Coughing or trouble breathing or getting enough air, for a tumor near the breast bone
  • Back pain

Germ Cell Tumor Diagnosis

To find out whether your child has a germ cell tumor, your child's doctor will start with a thorough exam and ask about your child's health background.

Next the doctor will do a series of tests to look for signs of disease. Common tests to check for germ cell tumors include blood tests, biopsies and imaging studies.

Blood tests

Used to check the levels of white and red blood cells, to look for tumor markers, which are substances that suggest a tumor is present, and to check for other chemicals in the blood.


Used to take out a sample of tissue, check it for cancer and look at the type of cells.

Imaging studies

Your child's doctor may also want your child to have pictures taken of the inside of his body, such as an X-ray, ultrasound , CT (computed tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) .

These imaging studies allow the doctor to look for tumors or places where cancer is active.