Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

How are germ cell tumors diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for germ cell tumors may include:

  • Biopsy – a sample of tissue is removed from the tumor and examined under a microscope.
  • Complete blood count – a measurement of size, number and maturity of different blood cells in a specific volume of blood.
  • Additional blood tests – may include blood chemistries, evaluation of liver and kidney functions and genetic studies.
  • Multiple imaging studies, including:
    • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) – a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging – a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radio frequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
    • X-ray – a diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones and organs onto film.
    • Ultrasound (also called sonography) – a diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function and to assess blood flow through various vessels.
    • Bone scans – pictures or X-rays taken of the bone after a dye has been injected that is absorbed by bone tissue. These are used to detect tumors and bone abnormalities.