Chemotherapy for Germ Cell Tumors

Children with cancerous germ cell tumors located outside the brain typically have chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors before or after surgery. Pediatric oncologists at NYU Langone’s Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders determine the most appropriate regimen based on the child’s age, as well as the type, size, and location of the tumor.

Advanced ovarian and testicular germ cell tumors, as well as those not located in the reproductive organs, also require chemotherapy.

Children with germ cell tumors located outside the brain typically receive a combination of three chemotherapy drugs for one to five days, every three to four weeks. This is considered a single treatment cycle. Children usually receive three or four cycles, either in the hospital or, more likely, as outpatients. Depending on the type of tumor your child has and whether it has spread to other areas of the body, chemotherapy may be used before or after surgery to shrink the cancer.

Managing Side Effects

Because chemotherapy is designed to attack cells that divide quickly, it affects not only cancerous cells but also healthy cells in the bone marrow, hair follicles, immune system, intestines, lungs, and mouth. This can lead to side effects, which may include constipation or diarrhea, fatigue, flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, hair loss, mouth sores, nausea, numbness in the hands and feet, stomach pain, and vomiting.

Some types of chemotherapy can cause infertility, so your doctor discusses sperm or egg banking options with you.

NYU Langone oncology nurses, social workers, and child psychologists can help your child handle the emotional stress of hair loss. They can recommend bandanas, hats, scarves, and wigs until the hair grows back weeks or months after chemotherapy ends.

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