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Explaining persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma

Men and women discussing gestational trophoblastic tumours

This page tells you about persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinomas – they are types of tumours known as gestational trophoblastic tumours (GTT for short). There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Persistent trophoblastic disease

This is a disease in women who have had an operation to remove a molar pregnancy from their womb, but who still have some molar tissue left behind. The molar tissue can spread into the deeper tissues of the womb or to other parts of the body and can cause problems. 

The treatment for persistent trophoblastic disease is usually chemotherapy. Persistent trophoblastic disease can spread to other parts of the body like a cancer but has a cure rate of nearly 100%.

Choriocarcinoma

A choriocarcinoma is a cancer, but it is very rare and is usually curable. It happens if cells that have been part of a normal pregnancy or a molar pregnancy become cancerous. This includes pregnancies that have reached full term and delivered a normal baby, miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, or those that have been ended by an abortion (termination). 

Choriocarcinoma cells can spread to other parts of the body. You can develop a choriocarcinoma months or even years after you were pregnant. So it can be difficult to diagnose because it is so unexpected. Choriocarcinomas usually grow quickly and cause symptoms within a short period of time. But they are usually curable.

 

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Persistent trophoblastic disease

Persistent trophoblastic disease is when women who have had treatment to remove a molar pregnancy still have some molar tissue left behind. Even a very small amount of molar tissue anywhere in the body can grow and cause problems. Persistent trophoblastic disease can spread to other parts of the body like a cancer but has a cure rate of nearly 100%. The treatment for persistent trophoblastic disease is usually chemotherapy.

 

Choriocarcinoma

A choriocarcinoma is a cancer, but it is very rare. There are fewer than 20 cases a year in the UK. It is usually curable. Choriocarcinoma happens when cells that were part of a normal pregnancy or a molar pregnancy become cancerous. Chorio refers to the word chorion, which is the outer covering (membrane) of the growing baby (foetus). Carcinoma means a cancer in the epithelial cells which cover or line a body organ.

Normal pregnancies include

Although choriocarcinoma can happen after any type of pregnancy, it is very rare. It only happens in about 1 in every 50,000 pregnancies.

You can develop a choriocarcinoma months or even years after you were last pregnant. So it can be difficult to diagnose, because it is so unexpected. Choriocarcinomas can grow quickly and may cause symptoms within a short period of time. They are more likely to spread to other parts of the body than other types of gestational trophoblastic disease but are very likely to be cured by chemotherapy treatment.

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Updated: 22 June 2016