Today I had my post-op appointment with my surgeon and so have learned a great deal about my particular tumor, a teratoma. The word itself is derived from the Greek word teraton, meaning monster, and was used initially by Rudolf Virchow, a public health activist, social reformer, politician, and one of the 19th century’s foremost leaders in medicine and pathology in the first edition of his book on tumors, which was published in 1863.
Teratomas are tumors in which more than a single cell type is derived from more than one germ layer–typically three. Cells differentiate along various germ lines, essentially recapitulating any tissue of the body. Examples include hair, teeth, fat, skin, muscle, and endocrine tissue; hence the name teraton or monster. According to my doctor, my tumor was primarily developed from egg cells in my left ovary.
Ovarian teratomas are a type of germ cell tumor which are cancers that begin in egg cells in women or sperm cells in men. There are two main types of ovarian teratoma: mature teratoma, which is benign and immature teratoma which is cancerous. Mine was a mature teratoma, the most common type of ovarian germ cell tumor. My doc said these tumors are most often diagnosed in women during their reproductive years–from teens to forties–so mine took a little more time to arrive than most others. Teratomas that develop in the ovary can cause a variety of complications. These complications include torsion, rupture, infection, anemia, and malignant degeneration.
When I asked my doc how these tumors develop, he told me if he could answer that question all he’d ever need to do is lecture at the Harvard Medical school. So I took that to mean the medical field doesn’t know why they develop or how fast they grow. In fact, his ultimate response was “hey, shit happens and we don’t often know why.” I like this guy.
So essentially when shit like this happens and is discovered, the process is to remove the tumor which most often means removing the ovary and fallopian tube with it, and the condition is then “cured.” So that’s what he did. I’d say as illnesses goes, that’s some good shit.
Oh, almost forgot. There is a chance that it was this tumor and not diverticulitis that sent me to the ER. In fact, I may not even have diverticulitis. My doc has recommended a GI specialist in his practice so I can get another opinion than that of the asshole in the ER. I’m sure you all can’t wait to hear about this.