A teratoma is a solid tumor that is present at birth. Most teratomas are in the sacrococcygeal (sacrum and tailbone) area of the developing fetus, but they can be found anywhere in the body. Teratomas can also be found in other parts of the body like the eye, head or chest cavity. Sacrococcygeal teratomas are also called SCTs. All SCTs are germ cell tumors. Some have yolk sack elements, some don’t. Those with a yolk sack element are usually malignant, but not always.
All teratomas derive from germ cells very early on in fetal development. Because the teratomas are made up of germ cells, they are able to develop into any type of body tissue.
After tumor removal, most babies have excellent outcomes. There is a higher incidence of tumor recurrence if the tailbone is not completely removed during the initial SCT surgery. Common side effects of the tumor/tumor removal surgery are urinary and fecal incontinence. Incontinence can be managed with catheters and a bowel management program. Other long-term effects of the teratoma are usually related to premature delivery and not the tumor itself.
In almost all cases, treatment for a teratoma is total surgical resection. Often, structures surrounding the tumor are resected as well, such as the tailbone, to prevent the tumor from returning.
Teratomas are sometimes fatal if they become too vascular and the fetus’s body cannot maintain blood flow to both the tumor and its own internal organs.
After adoption, tumor recurrence should be monitored by an oncologist. The doctor will use a combination physical exams, MRIs and a blood test for tumor markers to monitor the child.