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Symptoms of persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma

Men and women discussing gestational trophoblastic tumours

This page has information about the symptoms of persistent trophoblastic disease (PTD) and choriocarcinoma. There is information below about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Symptoms of persistent trophoblastic disease or choriocarcinoma

Persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma are types of pregnancy related tumours called gestational trophoblastic tumours (GTTs). The symptoms include

Vaginal bleeding

This is the most common symptom of persistent trophoblastic disease or choriocarcinoma. If you continue to bleed for longer than normal after a normal pregnancy or a molar pregnancy, it may be a symptom of this disease.

Abdominal swelling

You may have some swelling of your abdomen (tummy). In rare cases, ovarian cysts may develop, which can make the abdomen even larger.

Anaemia

Anaemia means that you have a low number of red blood cells. If you are losing blood because of vaginal bleeding your red blood cell count may drop. Being anaemic can make you feel tired and short of breath.

Symptoms of choriocarcinoma that has spread

If choriocarcinoma spreads it most commonly spreads to the lungs, but other parts of the body can also be involved. If the tumour is affecting your lungs you might have a cough, difficulty breathing and sometimes chest pain. If it has spread to your vagina then you may have excessive bleeding, and your doctor might be able to feel a lump, or nodules on your vagina. Pain can be a symptom if the cancer has spread into your abdomen. And spread to the brain might cause headaches, dizziness and fits (seizures). These symptoms sound very frightening, but choriocarcinoma is nearly always cured, even if it has spread away from the womb.

 

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What PTD and choriocarcinomas are

Persistent trophoblastic disease (PTD) and choriocarcinoma are types of pregnancy related tumours known as gestational trophoblastic tumours (GTT for short). You can read our general information about GTTs

PTD can occur after an abnormal type of pregnancy called a molar pregnancy. Women who have had a molar pregnancy are monitored very closely. So if you develop persistent trophoblastic disease it usually shows up on the tests you have as part of follow up for molar pregnancy 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.

 

Vaginal bleeding

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 GTT.

 

Abdominal swelling

You may 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 GTT produce this hormone.

 

Anaemia

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 commonly spreads 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 may have heavy bleeding, and your doctor might be able to feel a lump (nodules) on your vagina. 

You may 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 stress that choriocarcinoma is nearly always cured, even if it has spread to other parts of the body.

 

More information

The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. So it is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice worrying symptoms.

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Updated: 22 June 2016