I just wanted to take some time to dedicate to my favorite tumor. I know that sounds like a creepy statement, but these are more common than people realize especially in pregnant women, and I don’t think that everyone understands what they are, why they occur, and how they are treated.
What is a teratoma?
A teratoma is a tumor that contains various tissues or organ components and can contain hair, teeth, bones, eyes, and when larger even a hand, torso, feet, or other limbs. Sometimes they can fill with fluid and it can look like a fetus is within the structure, but it may just be lung or liver tissue with fluids present. They can be either benign (mature) or malignant (immature) and found in both men and women and are found in about 1 of every 40,000 births.
How do they occur?
They are considered congenital tumors in that they are present at birth but they just aren’t found until later in life, sometimes randomly, many times in women they are found in prenatal ultrasound.
Are there any complications from these tumors?
Malignant teratomas can spread to various parts of the body and can be associated with other types of tumors such as Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), small cell carcinoma, etc. You will usually have symptoms such as chest pain, cough, fatigue, increased shortness of breath, etc and will require a chest x-ray, CT Scan, MRI, blood tests, and a possible biopsy for diagnosis.
Benign teratomas can have complications for the fetus inutero, if it is large enough to steal some of the blood flow from the fetus and lead to vascular and heart damage.
Usually in benign teratomas, a surgical removal is the only treatment necessary. For malignant teratomas, chemotherapy is required, which may be the only treatment necessary and then possible surgical removal of any remaining tumor left over.
So, while this is something you won’t run into every day, it is more common than you realize, so don’t freak out f you are diagnosed with one, and they are easily treated and removed. For malignant teratomas, they are a little more intense in treatment, and do have actual symptoms, that are pretty generic, so let this be a lesson that you should have a relationship with your HCP and go see them with any new symptoms.
Yours in Good Health