Germ cell ovarian cancer: what is it ?

Germ cell ovarian cancer: what is it ?

Julie Scott, DNP
Julie Scott, DNP

Germ-cell ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the germ cell of the ovary, which is the egg in the ovary. This is a rare type of ovarian cancer, as most ovarian cancers form in the cells lining the ovaries.

This type of ovarian cancer is most likely found in younger women or teenagers. Most often, only one ovary is affected.

Symptoms

Symptoms of germ cell ovarian cancer can vary for each person, but some of the common symptoms of this cancer include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Feeling full quickly after eating

Diagnosis

The ultimate diagnosis of ovarian cancer will be made once a biopsy is obtained. A pelvic exam may be done if there is a suspected issue with the female reproductive system. During a pelvic exam, the practitioner can feel for any abnormalities.

When a diagnosis of ovarian cancer is suspected or confirmed, imaging studies such as CT scans or ultrasounds may be ordered to evaluate for the presence of a mass or any other area of concern. A biopsy may be ordered once a suspicious mass is identified.

Lab tests, such as beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) or alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), can serve as tumor markers. These tests can be elevated if germ cell ovarian cancer is present.

Further imaging can be ordered once a diagnosis is made to establish where the cancer is located. Once a diagnosis is made, the additional imaging allows the oncologist to determine the stage of cancer, which is how extensive cancer has grown.

Treatment

The exact treatment for ovarian cancer will be determined once the diagnosis is made and the cancer stage is known.

Surgery may be recommended to treat cancer and can include the removal of the ovary and fallopian tube. Still, it can also possibly include removing both ovaries and the uterus as well. Surgery may even be recommended to debulk the tumor even if it can’t all be removed.

Some people will need to be treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a medication that is given to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy, where high beams of energy are directed at cancer cells, may also be given.

If you’ve been diagnosed with germ-cell ovarian cancer, be sure to talk to your cancer team about the specifics of your cancer. They can help you understand your diagnosis and how best to treat it.

Germ cell ovarian cancer (GCOC) is one of the most common types of cancer in women. Early detection and treatment of GCOC are essential for successful outcomes.

Julie Scott, DNP
Julie Scott, DNP
Julie is an oncology certified Oncology Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of medical oncology experience. In addition to her clinical work, she is an accomplished healthcare writer providing oncology content for various publications. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member for a Master's nursing program and a chair for Doctoral nursing students.

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