Read about the possible symptoms of persistent trophoblastic disease (PTD) and choriocarcinoma and when you need to see a doctor.
What PTD and choriocarcinoma is
Persistent trophoblastic disease (PTD) and choriocarcinoma are conditions that develop from placental cells. They are types of gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD for short).
Persistent trophoblastic disease can happen after a molar pregnancy. A molar pregnancy occurs when the fertilisation of the egg by the sperm goes wrong and leads to the growth of abnormal cells or clusters of water filled sacs inside the womb.
Women who have had a molar pregnancy are monitored very closely. So if you develop persistent trophoblastic disease it usually shows up on the blood and urine tests you have as part of the monitoring process before you notice any symptoms.
Choriocarcinoma can occur in the womb after pregnancy, molar pregnancy, a miscarriage or a termination of pregnancy (abortion). It can cause vaginal bleeding. But it can also spread to other parts of the body and the symptoms then depend on which part of the body is affected.
Persistent trophoblastic disease most commonly occurs in the womb, so vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom. If you continue to have vaginal bleeding for longer than usual after a normal pregnancy or a molar pregnancy, it may be a symptom of GTD.
You might have some swelling of your abdomen (tummy). In rare cases, ovarian cysts may develop, which can make your abdomen swell more. Ovarian cysts form due to high levels of the hormone human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (hCG) in the body. All types of GTD produce this hormone.
Anaemia means that you have a low number of red blood cells in your body. Red blood cells carry oxygen around your body. If you are losing blood due to vaginal bleeding your red blood cell count may drop. Being anaemic can make you feel tired and breathless.
Symptoms of choriocarcinoma
Choriocarcinoma starts in the womb but can spread to other parts of the body. The most common place is the lungs, but it can also spread to other areas.
If you have choriocarcinoma in your lungs, you might have a cough, difficulty breathing and sometimes chest pain.
If it has spread to your vagina, you might have heavy bleeding, and your doctor might be able to feel a lump (nodules) in your vagina.
You might have abdominal pain if the choriocarcinoma has spread into an area of your abdomen.
If the choriocarcinoma has spread to the brain you might have headaches, dizziness and fits (seizures).
These symptoms sound very frightening but we would like to reassure you that choriocarcinoma is nearly always cured, even if it has spread to other parts of the body.
See your doctor
It is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice any worrying symptoms.