Germ cell tumours factsheet


Germ cell tumours are a type of cancer that grows in the body parts of the reproductive system, like the testicles and ovaries.

Rarely, germ cell tumours can grow in areas like the chest and stomach.

Germ cells are used in the reproductive system, which is responsible for:

  • puberty – the period of development when children grow into teenagers and then into young adults
  • fertility – the ability to make, grow and birth a baby
  • producing sperm and eggs
  • sexual function – the ability to have sex.

Germ cell tumours will usually grow in the:

  • ovaries – two small glands in the female reproductive system that produce eggs or ovum
  • testicles – two glands that sit behind the penis in a pouch of skin and produce sperm.

 Signs and symptoms

Symptoms will depend on where the tumour is and how big it is.

Testicular tumours can cause painless lumps and change the size or shape of the testicles.

Tumours in the ovaries are often difficult to find. They can present with symptoms that are common for other reproductive system issues, including:

  • stomach pain
  • problems with the menstrual period
  • bloating
  • constipation or diarrhoea.

A germ cell tumour in another body part causes symptoms that differ depending on where it is in the body.

For example:

  • a child with a germ cell tumour in their pelvis might have issues with controlling their bladder
  • a child with a germ cell tumour at the bottom of the spine might cause leg weakness.


Germ cell tumours are diagnosed by:

  • checking your child’s symptoms
  • x-rays 
  • blood tests
  • CT or MRI scans
  • a biopsy - taking a tumour sample and testing it in a lab.

After diagnosis, your child will need some other tests to check:

  • whether the cancer has spread to other body parts.
  • whether their organs are healthy enough for treatment.


Children with germ cell tumours will see an oncologist for treatment. An oncologist is a specialist doctor who works with tumours and cancer.

Treatment options generally include

Some children may need chemotherapy to:

  • shrink the tumour before surgery
  • kill any remaining cancer cells after surgery
  • treat cancer when surgery cannot be done safely or effectively.

Some children will not need chemotherapy. Cancer treatment differs for every child, and your doctor will discuss the best treatment options with you.


Cure rate

Germ cell tumours are rare in children. Around 80-90% of children with germ cell tumours can be cured with cancer treatment in hospital.

Support for families

A cancer diagnosis can leave families and children feeling overwhelmed, scared, anxious, and upset. Practical and emotional support during and after treatment is essential and can come from: 

  • family
  • friends
  • healthcare professionals
  • specialised support services.

Speak to your child’s treatment team for information about support services.

Last updated Tuesday 19th March 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024