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Cancer Genetics

Malignant Teratoma



I work at a children`s hospital and one of the patient`s has a teratoma. I was curious to know more about it. I couldn`t find too much information that pertained to her particular situation, her`s is located in her oropharynx and surrounding areas. Any information you could give me would be helpful. Thank you.


A teratoma is a tumor which contains elements derived from more than one of the three layers of cells found in embryos. Most cancers start from one layer. The three layers are ectoderm (outermost layer), mesoderm (middle layer), and endoderm (inner layer). Each layer is responsible for forming the majority of different tissues. For instance, the ectoderm forms the skin, hair, sweat glands, teeth, nervous system, and the lining of the GI tract and respiratory system. Carcinomas tend to come from ectoderm. The mesoderm forms muscle, bone, blood. Sarcomas tend to come from mesoderm.

Teratomas have a little bit of everything, frequently arranged in a haphazard manner. The tissues may be very well-differentiated and are foreign to the location of the teratoma. For instance, an ovarian teratoma may have rudimentary teeth and scalp hair inside it.

The most common locations for teratomas are the ovaries, pelvis, and sacral region. They can be found virtually anywhere in the body, however. The mediastinum is a known location. The oropharynx is a particularly unusual spot for a teratoma. You may not be able to find anything that specifically talks about it. You could try a Medline search. Ask your hospital librarian for some assistance if you are uncertain about how to conduct one.

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Response by:

Judith A Westman, MD Judith A Westman, MD
Associate Professor, Clinical Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Medical Biochemistry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University