Germ Cell Tumors in Children

Tumors of the Ovaries and Testes

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Germ cell tumor treatment requires a team of specialists with experience treating children of all ages. Duke Children's pediatric cancer team provides expert care and a full range of support services tailored to your child’s needs. Whether it’s explaining a procedure to your child or helping to manage side effects and stress, our care goes beyond just the treatment of germ cell tumors. We’re here to support your child and family every step of the way.

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What Is a Germ Cell Tumor?

Germ cell tumors occur in children of all ages. They develop from the reproductive cells that produce eggs in the ovaries and sperm in the testicles. These are called gonadal tumors. In rare cases, the cells travel and form tumors, called extragonadal germ cell tumors, in other parts of the body -- such as the abdomen, chest, neck, and head. 

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Some germ cell tumors are cancerous and can spread throughout the body. These tumors often require a combination of surgery and intravenous chemotherapy to be completely eradicated. Other germ cell tumors called teratomas are benign but still require surgical removal in order to prevent regrowth. Your doctor will discuss treatment options and match the appropriate treatment to the specific features of each patient’s condition.


A surgeon removes the tumor and the tissue around it to make sure no cancer cells are left behind.


Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells or stops them from growing, and prevents cancer from coming back. Pediatric medical oncologists provide chemotherapy through an IV infusion, in a pill or liquid form, or an injection. Chemotherapy may be part of your child’s care plan, but it will depend on the location of the tumor and whether the cancer cells have spread.

Family-Friendly Support Services

We treat the whole child -- not just the disease. Your child receives personalized treatment and follow-up plans tailored to their needs. We also offer a variety of services designed to make your child’s experience as positive as possible and support your family throughout treatment.

Extended Cancer Outpatient Services

We offer outpatient services -- such as chemotherapy, transfusions, and lab tests -- 12 hours a day, seven days a week at Duke Children’s Valvano Day Hospital. This means your child won’t need to be admitted to the hospital just because they don’t feel well or need treatment over the weekend or when your doctor’s office is closed.

Quality-of-Life Care

You want your child to be as comfortable as possible during treatment. Our team focuses on managing your child’s symptoms and other aspects of treatment that affect your child’s quality of life. We help with pain management, supportive nutrition, relaxation techniques, and more to help your child get through treatment. We’re here to improve your child’s and your family’s well-being during treatment and hospitalization.

Teen and Young Adult Oncology Program

Teens and young adults are too old to be treated like young kids, but adult care might not be quite right for them either. Our Teen and Young Adult Oncology Program brings together the expertise of pediatric and adult cancer specialists to determine what’s best for each person, along with personalized psychological support. We customize treatment and services that consider your child’s unique needs, including support and guidance to help them cope with treatment and its effects on their high school, college, or social activities.  

Childhood Cancer Survivorship Care

Once treatment is complete, you can count on us for continuing support. We offer long-term follow-up services for preventive health care, including screenings and ongoing surveillance. Our cancer care doctors and nurses work with social workers and child psychologists who can offer support and assistance with school-related or personal issues. In addition, we can help your child transition to adult cancer care services when they’re ready. If your child needs other services related to treatment, we refer you to subspecialists. You’ll have resources and support to ensure your child’s long-term well-being.

Child and Adolescent Life

When your child is fighting cancer, it’s difficult on the entire family. We try to make it a little easier. Whether it's explaining a procedure, offering encouragement, or arranging fun activities during a hospital stay, your child gets care in a welcoming, kid-friendly environment. And, you and your family can get emotional support and education to help you cope as your child goes through treatment and recovery.

Care Coordination and Support

It’s helpful to have a team on your side to help you manage your child’s care. Our social workers help you navigate the medical system and coordinate the variety of health services your child needs. They can help you work with insurance providers, connect with resources, and manage the details related to your child’s care. Our nurse coordinators can help you schedule appointments for tests, treatments, and other medical visits.

Ronald McDonald Family Room

Enjoy a comfortable place to relax at the hospital. You can grab a light meal, shower, do laundry, or use a computer with internet access. Staffed by volunteers, the family room is here to make your time at the hospital a little more comfortable.

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Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center is proud to be nationally ranked in 10 pediatric specialties.

Personalized Care for Your Child's Germ Cell Tumor

Full Range of Tests
We use a full range of tests to identify the type of germ cell tumor your child has and whether it’s related to a genetic change. Blood tests, biopsies, and imaging exams such as ultrasound, MRI, and CT help us design a treatment plan that is specific to your child's condition and offers the best possible results. Testing also allows us to develop a long-term follow-up cancer screening plan based on your child’s genetic makeup. 

Children's Oncology Group
Our pediatric cancer care experts are also researchers seeking better treatments for children with germ cell tumors. Our doctors collaborate with pediatric cancer experts through the Children's Oncology Group, the world’s largest child and adolescent cancer research organization. That means your child gets the combined expertise of leading cancer researchers and has access to the latest treatments.

Team of Specialists
Your child’s team includes pediatric oncologists, surgeons, and urologists, as well as nurses who are specially trained to care for children with cancer. The team works collaboratively with social workers, psychologists, and other care professionals to assist your child and family throughout your child’s treatment. In addition, your team may include fertility specialists to address any reproductive issues that can occur as a result of a germ cell tumor or its treatment. If your child’s germ cell cancer is caused by a genetic abnormality, we bring in genetic counselors to discuss future screening and preventive steps.

Highly Skilled Pediatric Surgeons
Our highly skilled pediatric surgeons use minimally invasive surgery whenever possible. This approach involves smaller incisions and lets your child recover faster. Duke Children’s is one of the few U.S. centers verified as a Level I children's surgery center by the American College of Surgeons. The Level I designation recognizes our commitment to providing the safest and highest-quality surgical care for our young patients.

This page was medically reviewed on 10/05/2023 by