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Malignant teratoma


Malignant teratoma is a type of cancer made of cysts that contain one or more of the three layers of cells found in a developing baby (embryo). These layers are called ectoderms, mesoderms, and endoderms. Malignant teratoma is one type of germ cell tumor.

Alternative Names

Dermoid cyst - malignant; Nonseminomatous germ cell tumor - teratoma; Immature teratoma


Malignant teratoma occurs most often in young men in their 20s - 30s. It is often located in the front chest area (mediastinum). Most malignant teratomas can spread throughout the body, and have spread by the time of diagnosis.

A number of other cancers are often associated with these tumors, including:

  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
  • Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Malignant histiocytosis
  • Myelodysplasia (MDS)
  • Small cell undifferentiated carcinoma


Symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Limited ability to tolerate exercise
  • Shortness of breath

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam, which may reveal a blockage of the veins entering the center of the chest due to increased pressure in the chest area. 

The following tests help diagnose the tumor:

  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scans of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis
  • Blood tests to check beta-HCG, alpha fetoprotein (AFP), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels
  • Mediastinoscopy with biopsy


Chemotherapy is used to treat the tumor. A combination of medicines (usually cisplatin, etoposide, and bleomycin) is commonly used.

After chemotherapy is complete, CT scans are taken again to see if any of the tumor remains. Surgery may be recommended if there is a possibility that the cancer will grow back in that area or if any cancer has been left behind.

Support Groups

There are many support groups available for people with cancer. Contact the American Cancer Society -- www.cancer.org

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook depends on the tumor size and location and the age of the patient.

Possible Complications

The cancer can spread throughout the body and there may be complications of surgery or related to chemotherapy.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of malignant teratoma.



McColl FD. Diseases of the diaphragm, chest wall, pleura, and mediastinum. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 99.

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