Testing & Diagnosis for Sacrococcygeal Teratoma (SCT) in Children

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How is sacrococcygeal teratoma diagnosed?

A sacrococcygeal tumor is usually diagnosed during pregnancy by a highly specialized prenatal ultrasound.

  • You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in this kind of an ultrasound if the levels of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in your blood are high. A blood test to determine AFP levels is a routine part of prenatal care and is usually taken sometime between the 15th and 20th week of pregnancy.
  • You may also be referred for this kind of an ultrasound if your uterus is larger than it should be during that particular week of pregnancy. If an SCT is causing the enlarged uterus, an increase in amniotic fluid or the large size of the tumor is usually to blame.

What the ultrasound shows

If there's a sacrococcygeal teratoma, the ultrasound will show a large mass.

  • The mass may be either cystic (filled with liquid) or solid in appearance; it's commonly a mixture of both.
  • Measurements will be taken to determine how far into the abdomen the teratoma extends and what organs it may have affected.
  • Many times the mass can cause pressure on internal organs like the bladder, and may lead to obstruction and enlargement of the kidneys.

Special concerns relating to a solid tumor

A tumor that is mostly solid has a large amount of blood vessels, and this causes the fetus' heart to pump extra hard to circulate blood through both his body and the tumor.

This extra work may cause the fetus to develop heart failure (hydrops). This will be monitored closely by fetal echocardiography, which looks directly at fetal heart function.

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