From the archives of the AFIP: a comprehensive review of fetal tumors with pathologic correlation.
Fetal tumors are a diverse group of neoplasms, which are unique in their histologic characteristics, anatomic distribution, and pathophysiology. The biologic behavior of tumors in the fetus may differ dramatically compared with that of the same tumor detected later in life. Teratomas are the dominant histologic type and constitute the majority of both extracranial and intracranial neoplasms. Although often histologically mature, they may prove lethal because of their location and metabolic demands on the fetus. Large solid tumors may lead to cardiovascular compromise and hydrops fetalis. Extracranial teratomas are most commonly located in the sacrococcygeal area, followed by the head and neck, chest, and retroperitoneum. Fetuses with intracranial tumors have a poor prognosis regardless of histologic type. There are, however, two notable exceptions: lipomas and choroid plexus papillomas, both of which have a more favorable outcome. Neuroblastoma is the most common fetal malignancy. It may be either solid or cystic and is more often located on the right side. It typically has favorable biologic markers and stage at presentation. The prognosis for prenatally diagnosed cases is excellent. Other fetal neoplasms include soft-tissue tumors (both benign and malignant), leukemia, mesenchymal hamartoma of the kidney, and liver tumors (hemangioendothelioma, mesenchymal hamartoma, and hepatoblastoma).