Cancer tumors and incipient teeth

On occasion I’ve seen disturbing photos of dissected tumors that have tiny teeth forming in them.

All I know about cancer tumors is that the differentiation of the cell has gone haywire and is in overdrive. Are some “differential paths” (I’m sure there’s a correct word) more likely than others? Ie, why not other organs or sub-organs or any knd of possible anatomy from that cell type? Or they do occur, but cannot be seen as readily and dramatically as teeth?

You’re talking about Teratomas. Not all of them are cancerous - a surprisingly large percent (to the layman, at least) are benign.

I know that word. Yuck. Disturbing, as I said. But I guess I’ll do my homework now.

Yes teratoma. This is just one of many many different types of tumor. The wiki article explains it well. The benign version - and if you can recognize macro structures such as teeth it is probably benign - is fairly common. Although as the wiki says they can contain elements from any of the three germ layers, per my experience as a pathologist ectodermal constituents such as teeth, skin and hair are common. As you open one up you feel a little like Forrest Gump looking into a box of chocolates.

I am never going to look at a Whitman’s Sampler the same way again…


With respect to the OP’s question:

They can contain essentially ANY type of tissue but, obviously, those with teeth, hair, etc., are lot more, ummm, shall we say, impressive to lay people. In other words, even centuries ago, and in the absence of any medical training, anyone could identify macroscopic and familiar teratoma components such as teeth and hair. On the other hand, it requires advanced technology (i.e. a microscope) and advanced training (i.e. knowledge of histology) to appreciate the presence of, say, thyroid, liver, or nerve tissue within them.

And, when I say that any type of tissue can be found in teratomas, I mean just that - anything. For example, here’s a report of a teratoma in a woman, again, in a woman, which contained male sexual elements such as prostate tissue, seminal vesicles, etc.!

As an aside, teratomas are often referred to as dermoids, or dermoid cysts.

I had a teratoma/dermoid cyst removed from my left ovary in 97. It was benign and contained the usual bits : hair,teeth,nails and cartilage. I was fortunate that it scooped out easily with no loss of the ovary.

Thanks for zeroing in on exact OP.

Huh, when I open one up I wonder how I’m going to clean the greasy, sebaceous goo (produced by skin adnexal tissue in the teratoma) off the cutting board.

Where have you been, fellow pathologist Oly?

By the way, while most cystic teratomas in women are benign, a higher percentage of teratomas occurring in some other sites are malignant (for instance, in the testis, where they often are a component of mixed tumors, but do not typically present with structures like teeth and hair).

Box of chocolates as in you never know what you’ll get. Just like you might bite down on a surprise peanut when you sink your teeth into the nougat, you might scrape your scalpel against a bonus tooth - or bone or hair or cartilage or muscle or you name it - when you dissect beyond the sebaceous goo. And then the surprises keep coming and get ever more delightful under the microscope. If you want to see a young mind blown, hand the slide to an unsuspecting and too-eager-to-please medical student and ask them to ID what organ of is.

Yes, I have been away from the surg bench for a while but I remember the teratomas (or TT’s as I usta call 'em) well.

[quote=“Oly, post:11, topic:655561”]

Alright that’s quite enough now. Class, show and tell is over. You can return to your seat Oly. And see me after class.

Yum! I know what I’m having for dinner tonight! Deep fried sebaceous goo is a household favorite!

So … do they recommend you tell the patient these details when there’s something this weird found? Or do they just say, “Oh, yeah, that cyst we sent to pathology is…um…well it’s benign, so don’t worry about it…”

I just wonder, ‘cause I’m not particularly sqeamish, and I’m a big ol’ bio nerd, but I think even I would be freaked out if male sexual organs were growing in my ovary. I mean, I’d probably tell people at parties, 'cause I have no sense of boundaries, but it’s pretty oogy to contemplate…

Sweet mother of god! What am I looking at? The image is in the “ovary” section of the website. Is that a single ovary, or was it *on *an ovary or is the ovary hidden somewhere inside the goo? It’s human, right? Not, like, a whale’s ovary?

Is it bad that I totally want to poke it?

Don’t worry. The tumor is really not all that big. Your sense of proportion is distorted by the the hand, which is also part of the teratoma and as such is actually very tiny.

:smiley: Love those glove growing teratomas.

Help meeeeeeeeeeee!!!

You’re evil.

I like that about you.

Hey, at least that has a glove. I’ve seen grosser pictures without gloves. Granted, it was pointing out animal stuff, but… zoonosis!

WhyNot, whale ovaries may not be that big, depending on species, and even big ovaries still look nice and normalish, like ovaries must look like. :wink:

Is that… “sulfur granules”? Atypical bacterial infection?

You know, I’ve been putting off looking at that cite, and this is just one more reason not to.

Somebody’s got to say it: :eek: :eek:

I hope you pathologists are happy. Of course I’m the OP, so it’s my fault in the first place.

Apologies for reviving a zombie thread, although when the topic is teratomas it may be appropriate.

Anywhose, I was reminded of this bygone thread when someone recently pointed me towards these seemingly teratoma-inspired “artworks”. WARNING: On the other side of the link are photos of hellishly distorted and yet realistic anatomic baubles that are, I would say, gruesome but not gory.