A teratoma is a kind of tumor that has cells from other organs. These cells can be those of hair, teeth, brain or even eyes. The tumor will generally never contain an entire organ but only the tissues from an organ. Because of the different kinds of organs the cells of the tumor may be derived from, it sometimes resembles a distorted fetus and hence its name ‘Teratoma’, which is derived from the Greek word, meaning ‘monster’.
Teratoma can be of two kinds based on the way they spread
A mature tumor is generally benign and it is more commonly found in women while on the other hand malignant tumor is immature and more commonly found in men. A benign tumour is non cancerous and does not spread around to other tissues and organs while a malignant tumour is cancerous in nature and hence more dangerous.
The teratomas are present right since child birth or even before the birth in foetus itself. But sometimes they are too small to be diagnosed and their presence is realised only in later childhood or adulthood.
Teratomas can be of different kinds based on their location
A sacrococcygeal teratoma is the one that grows near the tail bone or coccyx in a foetus. It is generally benign in nature and can be easily removed. But the greatest problem is that sometimes the tumor may grow to very large size. The fetus has to work twice; pump blood for itself as well as for the tumor. This may lead to heart failure in the growing foetus.
Cervical teratoma is the one that grows near the neck region. Its biggest problem that it causes is the distortion or compression of the air passage of the foetus. As a result of which after child birth the baby may face problems in breathing or may not be able to breathe at all.
Mediastinal teratoma is the one that occurs in the chest area. Between the lungs in the space surrounding the heart. Again like all other teratoma it may consist of cells belonging to any organ of the body. Its major drawback is that it may cause the heart to be pushed more towards the diaphragm and the lungs to be squeezed more towards the walls.
Most of the teratoma can be diagnosed in prenatal MRI. If they are diagnosed prenatal, they can also be treated at an early stage.
Types of Teratoma (based on the types of cells the tumor is made of)
Cystic tumour is comprised of cysts that are large spaces filled with fluid. The cystic teratomas are like balloons filled with liquid. There could be a single cyst or multiple cysts which are separated by means of membranes.
A solid teratoma is made up of firm and solid tissues. They are very rich in blood supply and blood vessels run throughout the tumour cells tissues.
Most of the tumours are of mixed kind; that is they have both cystic as well as solid teratoma cells within them.
Teratoma tumor diagnosis
The teratoma tumor may grow externally outside the body or they may grow internally inside the body. These tumors may also grow partially outside and partially inside the body. The ones that grow partially inside or completely inside the body are the most complicated ones from treatment perspective. It is because if the teratoma is growing inside a foetus body, there isn’t much that a doctor can do. It is too complicated to operate on something that is present inside the foetus body.
Teratomas are generally diagnosed in prenatal ultrasound. Sacrococcygeal teratoma and cervical teratoma can be easily detected in prenatal ultrasound. For other teratomas like mediastinal teratoma or ovarian teratoma MRI might be required.
The only sure shot treatment of teratoma is complete surgical removal from the body. If the teratoma is benign then surgery alone shall cure the problem but if teratoma is of malignant nature then it very important to go for surgery followed by chemotherapy. It shall reduce the possibility of reoccurrence of tumour.
The teratoma is a very serious and dangerous disease. Not only because it may develop into cancerous cells but also because it may lead to great disturbances inside the patient’s body. For example, if someone is suffering with ovarian teratoma and the teratoma tissue comprise of brain cells. In this case when the white blood cells attack on the teratoma cells they also attack on the patient’s brain, because brain cells are made up of similar kind of cells as the teratoma. The immune system may begin to destroy the actual brain cells as well along with teratoma cells. This may lead to delusion, loss of memory and other such complications. This is only one such example, but in reality teratoma could prove to be very fatal in certain cases.