Teratoma – Causes, Picture, Symptoms And Treatment

A Teratoma is a type of tumor that when removed and biopsied may contain organs, hair, teeth or other cells that are related to other body parts. The tumor can actually resemble a fetus, but not a product of normal conception. These tumors can sometimes be present from birth and grow over a lifetime. They are more common in women, but are occasionally seen in men.

These tumors form capsules that contain the three germ layers that form into an actual human. Teratomas in men usually occur in the chest area and they occur around the ovaries in women. They are rarely malignant, but even benign ones can grow to become quite large. They can grow in the testicular area in boys and men. Teratoma’s in the testicles can be malignant and need to be biopsied as soon as they are found.

Teratomas are found in up to 20% of cysts on the ovaries in younger women under the age of 20. In men, they are found in the chest area only 8% of the time and are actually rare. These tumors can also occur in developing fetus’s and small children. When they occur in a fetus during pregnancy, it can be a very serious condition.

Pictures of a Teratoma

Teratoma pictures

Source:  netterimages.com

Types of Teratoma

Mature Teratoma – These are most often benign and contain several different types of body tissue. This type of this tumor is solid and resembles a cyst. They can grow several layers of skin and even grow hair.

Dermoid Cyst – This type is usually found on the ovaries and contains mostly skin cells and hair.

Fetus in Fetu – This type is also known as a”twin within a twin,” where a set of twins were conceived, but one did not separate with the other. There is some question of this to date and the exact cause is still unknown. They do very closely resemble almost a fully formed fetus with skin, hair, nails, teeth and even bone structures. They can often be confused with an actually ectopic pregnancy sometimes.

Struma Ovarii – This is actually a thyroid goiter that forms on the ovary and is made up of thyroid tissue. There is an interesting connection between the two, since they are both endocrine organs and they both work together in reproduction.

Teratoma Symptoms

The symptoms of Teratoma begin with some of the same symptoms as any other cyst or tumor. For Teratoma’s that occur in a fetus, there would be no symptoms at all and are usually diagnosed during an ultrasound during pregnancy. In other people the symptoms consist of:

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Uterine Bleeding
  • Bowel and Bladder Trouble
  • Stomach Upset; Nausea, vomiting, gas, belching
  • Back Pain

For Teratoma of the chest, there may be a cough and pneumonia. For the most part, when these occur in the chest there usually are no symptoms and they are most often discovered on a chest x-ray.

A fetus in fetu can cause the abdomen to grow quite large as the tumor grows. This may put pressure on the bowels and the bladder. It isn’t usually confused with a pregnancy, as the tumor takes years to grow.

Complications of Teratoma

In benign Teratoma, severe complications are rare. The only time complications of Teratoma are severe is when they occur in a developing fetus. The tumor can grow quite quickly and become large enough to block blood flow to the fetus’s developing organs.

Teratoma’s can also rupture and cause severe pain, especially on the ovaries. This may require emergency medical attention and possibly surgery.

Teratoma’s in the chest area can cause pneumonia and will need to be removed if they put pressure on the major blood vessels leading to the heart and lungs.

Treatment of Teratoma

Most often, a benign Teratoma that is small may just be left alone and watched. Laboratory tests are important to monitor because some Teratoma’s can secret chemicals that can cause other problems. Thyroid tests may be run, as well as testing for pregnancy hormones.

In fetus’s, it depends on the situation. If the baby is mature enough to be delivered then an early delivery is attempted and the tumor will be removed after delivery. Sometimes the tumor is small enough that it can be watched via ultrasounds.

If a Teratoma is large enough to cause severe pain, it will be surgically removed and biopsied for malignancy. If there was evidence of malignancy then radiation and chemotherapy will be started right away.

Teratomas of the chest area are almost always removed when discovered, in order to prevent complications of the lungs. Sometimes, they are unable to be completely removed and the surgeon will at least attempt to remove part of the tumor.


Teratomas are actually a rare condition and not usually cause for concern. They are most often found on routine examinations either being felt by a doctor or seen on an x-ray or ultrasound. The patient sometimes complains of pain to the area or feeling of pressure.

One thing of importance is that any tumor needs to be examined and checked for malignancy. These tumors are almost always benign, but when they occur in the testicles they can be a sign of testicular cancer. This is why learning testicular self examination is so important, as there may be no symptoms to alert that a Teratoma is even present in this area.

When a Teratoma occurs in a fetus, it can be a serious complication of pregnancy and require immediate delivery of the baby. These can put pressure on the tiny blood vessels in the growing baby and can sometimes be fatal. Routine ultrasounds done during pregnancy can help find these tumors and treatment can be considered as early as possible.

In any case, a Teratoma can be easily treated and the cure rate is very high. If you think you may have this condition, see your physician as soon as possible for evaluation and possible treatment.

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