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Pediatric Seminoma Workup

  • Author: Arnold C Paulino, MD; Chief Editor: Robert J Arceci, MD, PhD  more...
Updated: Apr 16, 2012

Laboratory Studies

Measurements of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), human chorionic gonadotropin (beta-hCG), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) are important in the management of patients with testicular tumors such as seminomas. In fact, these tests are incorporated in the current staging system for testicular tumors (see Staging).[8]

Both AFP and beta-hCG are suggestive of malignancy when elevated before orchiectomy. The rate of decline after orchiectomy indicates the likelihood of residual tumor. Tumor marker levels are used to assess response to treatment and to predict the likelihood of complete remission. In regular follow-up, tumor marker levels indicate recurrence, often in the absence of symptoms, physical findings, or abnormal findings on imaging studies.

  • Beta-human chorionic gonadotropin
    • Beta-hCG is a glycoprotein typically produced by the placenta.
    • Elevations in beta-hCG levels are found in the serum of approximately 15% of patients with seminoma.
    • The half-life of beta-hCG is approximately 22 hours.
  • Alpha-fetoprotein
    • AFP is a glycoprotein typically associated with the human fetus and is the fetal equivalent of albumin. AFP is found in nonseminomatous germ cell tumors, as well as in hepatocellular carcinomas, cirrhosis, hepatitis, and pregnancy.
    • The half-life of AFP is approximately 5 days.
    • Elevated AFP levels are rare in pure seminomas and indicate that nonseminomatous elements are also present (ie, mixed tumor).[9]
  • Lactate dehydrogenase: The LDH level is an independent prognostic factor in patients with germ cell tumors (including seminoma). It is thought to reflect tumor burden.

Imaging Studies

See the list below:

  • Plain chest radiography, CT scanning of the abdomen and pelvis, and bipedal lymphangiography (LAG) are the most important radiologic investigations in determining the extent of disease in patients with seminoma.[10]
    • Chest radiography is adequate screening to rule out pulmonary parenchymal metastases.
    • CT scanning of the abdomen is the best technique for identifying the presence and extent of retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy and is necessary in all patients; it has largely replaced bipedal LAG in the radiographic staging of patients with seminoma. Retroperitoneal lymph nodes measuring 1-2 cm are confirmed to be pathologically involved with metastatic tumor in approximately 70% of cases.
    • Although radiologists skilled in the technique are increasingly difficult to find, bipedal LAG is uniquely able to define abnormal lymph nodes by both size and internal architecture, unlike CT scanning. In addition, LAG is useful to the radiation oncologist, who is able to minimize irradiation of normal tissues when such a study is available to facilitate portal design. Currently, this test is not widely used because of the difficulty in finding radiologists who are experts in this technique.
    • Further radiologic investigation is obtained only if the patient has symptoms suggesting further metastatic disease (eg, bone imaging in the setting of skeletal pain, brain CT scanning when neurologic signs are elicited).
  • The typical testicular tumor is intratesticular and may produce one or more discrete hypoechoic masses or diffuse abnormalities with microcalcifications that can be detected using scrotal ultrasonography. Calcifications are more frequent in seminoma than in nonseminomatous tumors.

Histologic Findings

Grossly, seminomas are pale gray–to-yellow nodules that are uniform or slightly lobulated. Pure seminomas are subdivided into 3 subtypes based on histopathologic characteristics.

  • Classic seminomas (85%) demonstrate a monotonous sheet of large cells with abundant cytoplasm and round hyperchromatic nuclei with prominent nucleoli. A lymphocytic infiltrate or granulomatous reaction with giant cells or both is frequently present. Trophoblastic giant cells capable of producing hCG are present in 15-20% of tumors. Mitoses are infrequent.
  • Anaplastic seminoma (10%) is an older term used to describe seminomas with 3 or more mitotic figures per high-power field. This finding has no clinical or prognostic significance because the response of anaplastic seminomas to standard therapy is equivalent to that of classic seminomas.
  • Spermatocytic seminoma (5%) is a rare histologic variant that is not associated with carcinoma in situ. These well-differentiated tumors usually contain cells resembling secondary spermatids or spermatocytes. Spermatocytic seminomas rarely metastasize, and they occur almost exclusively in elderly men.[2] The only recommended treatment is orchiectomy.


Testicular seminoma is staged according to the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) 2010 staging guidelines.[11] This is a TNM staging system comprising separate categorizations for the primary tumor, regional lymph nodes, distant metastases, and serum tumor markers; these 4 categories are used to determine the stage of the patient's disease. Modern treatment decisions are based, in part, on the subdivisions of this staging system. Formal staging is a complex process involving particular required and allowable tests and procedures; the following is a quick overview. (For full staging information, see the AJCC Staging Manual.)

  • Primary tumor staging
    • Tis - Intratubular germ cell neoplasia (carcinoma in situ)
    • T1 - Tumor limited to testis/epididymis without vascular or lymphatic invasion; tumor may invade into the tunica albuginea but not the tunica vaginalis
    • T2 - Tumor limited to testis/epididymis with vascular or lymphatic invasion or tumor extending through tunica albuginea with involvement of the tunica vaginalis
    • T3 - Tumor invading spermatic cord with or without vascular/lymphatic invasion
    • T4 - Tumor invading scrotum with or without vascular/lymphatic invasion
  • Regional lymph node staging
    • N0 - No regional lymph node metastases
    • N1 - Metastasis with lymph node(s) 2 cm or less in greatest dimension or multiple lymph nodes, none more than 2 cm in greatest dimension
    • N2 - Metastasis with lymph node(s) larger than 2 cm but not larger than 5 cm in greatest dimension, or multiple lymph nodes, any 1 mass larger than 2 cm, but not more than 5 cm, in greatest dimension
    • N3 - Metastasis with lymph node(s) larger than 5 cm in greatest dimension
  • Distant metastatic staging
    • M0 - No distant metastases
    • M1a - Nonregional nodal or pulmonary metastasis
    • M1b - Distant metastases other than M1a
  • Serum tumor marker staging
    • S0 - Marker studies within normal limits
    • S1 - LDH level less than 1.5 times the reference range, beta-hCG level less than 5000 mIU/mL, and AFP level less than 1000 ng/mL
    • S2 - LDH level 1.5-10 times the reference range, beta-hCG level 5,000-50,000 mIU/mL, or AFP level 1,000-10,000 ng/mL
    • S3 - LDH level more than 10 times the reference range, beta-hCG level more than 50,000 mIU/mL, or AFP level more than 10,000 ng/mL
  • Stage grouping
    • Stage IA - T1 N0 M0 S0
    • Stage IB - T2,3,4 N0 M0 S0
    • Stage IS - Any T N0 M0 S1,2,3
    • Stage IIA - Any T N1 M0 S0,1
    • Stage IIB - Any T N2 M0 S0,1
    • Stage IIC - Any T N3 M0 S0,1
    • Stage IIIA - Any T Any N M1a S0,1
    • Stage IIIB - Any T Any N M0,1a S2
    • Stage IIIC - Any T Any N M1a,1b S3
Contributor Information and Disclosures

Arnold C Paulino, MD Professor of Radiation Oncology, Methodist Hospital and Weill-Cornell Medical College; Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine

Arnold C Paulino, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Radiological Society of North America, Children's Oncology Group, American Society of Clinical Oncology, International Society of Paediatric Oncology, American Medical Association, American Radium Society, American Society for Radiation Oncology

Disclosure: Received royalty from Elsevier, Inc for author of book.


Jodi Muscal, MD Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology-Oncology, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital

Jodi Muscal, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for Cancer Research, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Steven K Bergstrom, MD Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology-Oncology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center of Oakland

Steven K Bergstrom, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, Children's Oncology Group, American Society of Clinical Oncology, International Society for Experimental Hematology, American Society of Hematology, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Robert J Arceci, MD, PhD Director, Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, Department of Hematology/Oncology, Co-Director of the Ron Matricaria Institute of Molecular Medicine, Phoenix Children’s Hospital; Editor-in-Chief, Pediatric Blood and Cancer; Professor, Department of Child Health, University of Arizona College of Medicine

Robert J Arceci, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association for Cancer Research, American Pediatric Society, American Society of Hematology, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Kathleen M Sakamoto, MD, PhD Shelagh Galligan Professor, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine

Kathleen M Sakamoto, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: International Society for Experimental Hematology, American Society of Hematology, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Society for Pediatric Research

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Radiotherapy fields for stage I seminoma.
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