Germ Cell Tumor - Childhood: Stages

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 05/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will learn about how doctors describe a tumor’s growth or spread. This is called the stage. Use the menu to see other pages.

Staging is a way of describing where a tumor is located, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body.

Doctors use diagnostic tests to find out the tumor's stage, so staging may not be complete until all of the tests are finished. Knowing the stage helps the doctor recommend what kind of treatment is best and can help predict a patient's prognosis, which is the chance of recovery. There are different stage descriptions for different types of tumors.

There are 2 types of staging for germ cell tumors, based on whether the patient has had surgery yet. First, the "clinical stage" is based on the results of tests done before surgery, such as a physical examination, CT scans, and MRI tests. Then, the "pathologic stage" is assigned based on information found during surgery, plus the laboratory results of any tissue removed during surgery. The stage provides a common way of describing the tumor, so doctors can work together to plan the best treatments.

Cancer stage grouping

The following pathologic stages for germ cell tumors are from the Children's Oncology Group:

Stage I: The tumor has been entirely removed, and tumor markers are normal, or they return to normal after surgery.

Stage II: Microscopic traces of the tumor are still present after surgery. Tumor markers do not return to normal following surgery.

Stage III: Visible traces of tumor are left behind after initial treatment, and the lymph nodes are significantly affected.

Stage IV: The tumor has spread from where it began to other, more distant areas of the body.

Recurrent: A recurrent tumor has come back after treatment. If the tumor does return, there will be another round of tests to learn about the extent of the recurrence. These tests and scans are often similar to those done at the time of the original diagnosis.

Information about the tumor’s stage will help the doctor recommend a specific treatment plan. The next section in this guide is Types of Treatment. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.