Choriocarcinoma (patient information)
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Choriocarcinoma is a quick-growing form of cancer that occurs in a woman's uterus (womb). The abnormal cells start in the tissue that would normally become the placenta, the organ that develops during pregnancy to feed the fetus.
Choriocarcinoma is a type of gestational trophoblastic disease.
What are the symptoms of Choriocarcinoma?
- A possible symptom is continued vaginal bleeding in a woman with a recent history of hydatidiform mole, abortion, or pregnancy.
- Additional symptoms may include:
- Irregular vaginal bleeding
- Ovarian cysts
- Uneven swelling of the uterus
What causes Choriocarcinoma?
- Choriocarcinoma is an uncommon, but very often curable cancer associated with pregnancy.
- A baby may or may not develop in these types of pregnancy.
- The cancer may develop after a normal pregnancy; however, it is most often associated with a complete hydatidiform mole.
- The abnormal tissue from the mole can continue to grow even after it is removed and can turn into cancer.
- About half of all women with a choriocarcinoma had a hydatidiform mole, or molar pregnancy.
When to seek urgent medical care?
- A pregnancy test will be positive even when you are not pregnant. Pregnancy hormone (HCG) levels will be persistently high.
- A pelvic examination may reveal continued uterine swelling or a tumor.
- Blood tests that may be done include:
- Imaging tests that may be done include:
- After an initial diagnosis, a careful history and examination are done to make sure the cancer has not spread to other organs.
- Chemotherapy is the main type of treatment.
Where to find medical care for Choriocarcinoma?
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
- Most women whose cancer has not spread can be cured and will maintain reproductive function.
- The condition is harder to cure if the cancer has spread and one of more of the following events occur:
- Disease has spread to the liver or brain
- Pregnancy hormone (HCG) level is greater than 40,000 mIU/mL at the time treatment begins
- Cancer returns after having chemotherapy in the past
- Symptoms or pregnancy occurred for more than 4 months before treatment began
- Choriocarcinoma occurred after a pregnancy that resulted in the birth of a child
- Many women (about 70%) who initially have a poor outlook go into remission (a disease-free state).
- A choriocarcinoma may come back after treatment, usually within several months but possibly as late as 3 years.
- Complications associated with chemotherapy can also occur.
Careful monitoring after the removal of hydatidiform mole or termination of pregnancy can lead to early diagnosis of a choriocarcinoma, which improves outcome.
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