Teratoma is a tumor that is encapsulated within tissues or organs. This structure may resemble copy of more than one germ layer. The teratoma tissues may appear to be different for the tissues surrounding it; however, in itself it may be a normal structure.
This is a tumor that contains different types of cells; it is caused when germ cells become out of control and starts to replicate themselves. It is termed as a birth defect.
It is discovered that teratoma can contain teeth, hair and bones as well. In rare cases the tumor can process eyes, limbs and torso, etc. Teratoma may contain no internal organs but may have tissues that are normally contained in organs such as liver, lung, brain, etc.
Presence of Cysts
Sometimes the tumor may also contain fluid filled cysts which may be more than one. In case of larger cysts there are possibilities that it may develop a structure resembling a fetus. Teratoma is often benign as the contained structures are usually encapsulated. However, there are also several types of teratoma are known to be malignant and some of these are also common. Typically a matured teratoma is benign and is often found in women. On the other hand an immature teratoma is said to be more malignant and is found commonly in men. It is said that these tumors can be congenital (present at birth), however, small tumors are not detected unless later in life.
Teratoma in US also called as ‘mature teratoma’ which refers to benign growth of the tumor. However, In UK the term teratoma may be used to indicate immature teratoma which is a cancerous growth. Hence, it becomes essential to specific which terminology is used to refer to the condition. Sometimes the term ‘malignant teratoma’ is used as an alternative to ‘nonseminomatous germ cell tumor’.
Teratoma are said to exist since birth and may be present even before birth. This is why they are categorized as congenital tumors. Many incidence of smaller teratoma are not detected until late childhood or early adulthood. Larger tumors are likely to be detected earlier. Prenatal ultrasound can help in detecting cervical tumors and sacrococcygeal tumors. Additional diagnosing techniques may also include prenatal Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). In rare cases the tumor may be large enough to cause death of the fetus. Some of the diagnostic procedures used for detecting teratoma include:
- Biopsy: In case of biopsy a small specimen of the tissues is retrieved from the tumor to evaluate under microscope.
- CBC or Complete Blood Count: This test is done to measure the size, maturity and count of different cells in blood.
- Blood Chemistries: This is a kind of blood test done to analyze kidney and liver functioning
- Computerized Tomography Scan (CT scan): It is an imaging procedure that is used to get a cross- sectional image of the relevant body part.
- MRI or magnetic Resonance Imaging: Is used to produce detailed images of organs, bones, tissues, etc.
- Ultrasound: This technique is also called sonography which is based on high-frequency sound waves. This test produces images of tissues, organs and blood vessels created by computer.
Symptoms of teratoma
The symptomsmay greatly vary according to the location and size of the tumor. Some of the common symptoms may include
- Tumor growth, protrusion or mass development that can be seen or felt
- Elevated AFP or Alpha-fetoprotein level
- Increased count of B-HCG or Beta Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin
Constipation, Weakness of leg and Incontinence are other symptoms that may be experienced by the patient if the tumor is located in the sacrum. Sacrum is a vertebral column segment that makes the upper part of the pelvis.
Treatment of teratoma
Treatment for teratoma is depended on the kind of tumor a person is affected with. Generally treatment often includes surgery. A skilled doctor, particularly a surgeon performs biopsy and surgical removal of affected tumors or associated organ. In case of children a pediatric surgeon recommended to perform such invasive procedures. There are some other treatments suggested if the tumor is determined to be malignant. These treatments methods include:
- Chemotherapy is a treatment that functions by inhibiting cancer cells and interfere in the growth and reproduction. In some cases of cancerous tumors chemotherapy can alone be beneficial; however, in other cases it may be used along with other treatments such as surgery and radiation therapy. Though this technique may be effective in treating the condition, the agents used in this method cannot distinguish between cancerous cells and healthy cells. This may lead to several adverse side effects during the treatment.
- Radiation Therapy: In this technique high-energy radiation is emitted through a special machine to destroy and kill cancerous cells. Radiation also helps by shrinking the tumor.
- Supportive care: Supportive care may be needed to prevent infection, side effects of treatment and associated complications. At the same time the supportive care can be comforting for the patient.