What is a Teratoma?
The germ layers are a group of cells which are formed during the development of embryo in the mother’s womb. Certain tumors appears in the tissues and organs which resemble the features of these germ layers and are technically known as
. In some cases, the tumors are produced by malignant germ cells from the reproductive organs of the men and women. There are several hypothesis regarding the origin of these tumors though.
The cells of these tumors are quite different from their surroundings and form in organs like bone, hair and teeth. In some rare occasions limbs, hands, feet, torso and eye are also affected. These tumors may also contain tissues from the liver, lung brain and thyroid.
Mature type of tumors are mostly found in women and are benign or non-cancerous. Immature type of these tumors affect men and are malignant or cancerous. Though these tumors are formed at the time of birth, their detection might take place in even the adult life of the patient. Depending upon the size and type of the constituent cells, these tumors are diagnosed.
The term is the United States refers to the benign form of the tumor, while in the United Kingdom it means the malignant cancerous form.
The disease is a rare one as five babies every day are diagnosed with it all over the world. When the reports of this condition in the later stages of life are also included, it accounts for 10,000 new cases every year.
Classification of Teratoma:
The Gonzalez-Crussi grading system is used to classify this tumor. It helps in deciding the course of treatment. Its stages are:
- Stage 0: Benign and mature
- Stage 1: Immature and probably benign
- Stage 2: Immature and possibly cancerous
- Stage 3: Frankly malignant
While the tumors of the first three stages can turn cancerous, those from the last stage might develop the ability to spread the ailment to fresh locations of the body.
Based on their content, these tumors can either of solid form containing tissues or might consist of fluids inside them. Some mixed form of these tumors are also detected. Swelling, pain and tenderness at the affected site are some of the teratoma symptoms.
These tumors may be present right from the time of birth or even prior to them. However, for ealy diagnosis, their size should be large. Sacrococcygeal and cervical teratomas are found out prior to birth using ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging. Sometimes the size of the tumor is large enough to redirect the flow of blood to the growing baby towards itself. This development can lead to heart failure or excessive accumulation of the fluids around the growth of the baby.
Some tumors growing around the embryo sac contain chemicals like alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) which can be detected as initial diagnostic procedure. Sacrococygeal taratoma is the most common type of tumor diagnosed.
Treatment of Teratoma:
Fortunately, these tumors by their very nature are encapsulated and do not interfere with the normal functioning of the near by cells. Thus, the best remedy to deal with these tumors is to be remove them surgically. However, there are chances of these tumors to recur even after the malignant chunk is removed through operation.
Surgery is not easy if the site of the tumor is inside brain or when the chunk is interlaced with surrounding muscles. For malignant tumors, surgical removal is not enough. Chemotherapy is applied there after which destroys the remainder of the deadly cells.
has an insidious nature. Even after the treatment, the operated sites are to be monitored very carefully through techniques like repeated physical examination, ultrasound, MRI and CT scanning and measurement of the levels of chemicals AFP to rule out the possibility of their recurrence.