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Epidermoid/Dermoid Tumors

Epidermoid and dermoid tumors are slow-growing benign tumors that result from a developmental abnormality. These rare tumors occur when a certain kind of tissue in an embryo, called ectodermal tissue, becomes misplaced in the developing brain. This causes the formation of a fluid-filled cyst, called an ectodermal inclusion cyst, that makes up the tumor. Epidermoid tumors comprise one percent of brain tumors, and dermoid tumors just 0.3 percent. These tumors also are referred to as germ cell tumors because the ectodermal tissue is known as a germ layer.

These rarer dermoid cysts occur in 4 major areas : -

  • Dermoid cysts in the brain: - Dermoid cysts occur very rarely here. A neurosurgeon may need to remove them if they cause problems.
  • Dermoid cysts in the nasal sinuses: - These are also very rare. Only a handful of cases involving dermoid cysts located here are reported each year. Removal of these cysts is extremely complicated.
  • Ovarian dermoid cysts : -These growths can develop in a woman during her reproductive years. They can cause torsion, infection, rupture, and cancer. These dermoid cysts can be removed with either conventional surgery or laparoscopy (surgery that uses small incisions and specially designed instruments to enter the abdomen or pelvis).
  • Dermoid cysts of the spinal cord: -A sinus tract, which is a narrow connection from a deep pit in the skin, usually connects these very rare cysts to the skin surface. This type of dermoid cyst can become infected. Removal is often incomplete, but the outcome is usually excellent.

Dermoid Cyst Causes

Dermoid cysts are caused when skin and skin structures become trapped during fetal development. Their cell walls are nearly identical to those of the outer skin and may contain multiple skin structures such as hair follicles, sweat glands, and sometimes hair, teeth, or nerves.


The symptoms of epidermoid and dermoid tumors vary depending on their location. Cysts on the scalp and skull usually are painless, mobile, rubbery masses. Usually they only cause cosmetic problems, although cysts on the skull may penetrate into the brain. Depending on specific location, intracranial tumors may cause visual problems, seizures, pain in the face, numbness, or weakness. If the cysts rupture and spill their contents, they can cause repeated bouts of severe meningitis, with symptoms including fever, headache, and neck stiffness.


Exams And Tests

Prior to removal of superficial dermoid cysts on the face, a person should know the difference between cysts and other facial growths.
  • Because dermoid cysts stem from birth and grow slowly, a person usually notices them during childhood or early adulthood.
  • Dermoid cysts are firm and painless unless ruptured.
  • Dermoid cysts are not attached to the overlying skin.
In rare cases, a dermoid cyst extends into a structure deeper than skin, such as a facial cavity or an orbit. Some doctors recommend a CT scan or other imaging studies for these cases. This decision depends on the doctor's suspicion of a deep-level cyst and after a determination of risk versus benefit.

Dermoid Cyst Removal Treatment

Self-Care at Home

Self-removal of facial cysts at home is not recommended because the cyst will grow back if not completely removed. Chances of infection, bleeding, and other complications increase for people who remove dermoid cysts themselves, especially since the person may not be able to differentiate between a harmless growth and other, more serious skin growths.

Medical Treatment

To remove a dermoid cyst, the doctor will clean the area over which the cyst is located, inject a local anesthetic, and make an incision directly over the cyst and attempt remove it completely

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