Symptoms of invasive mole and choriocarcinoma

Invasive mole and choriocarcinoma are conditions that develop from placental cells. They are types of gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD). They both have similar symptoms.

What are invasive mole and choriocarcinoma?

An invasive mole can happen after a molar pregnancy. It is sometimes called persistent trophoblastic disease (PTD). A molar pregnancy occurs when the fertilisation of the egg by the sperm goes wrong. This 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 with blood and urine tests. If you develop an invasive mole it usually shows up on your test results before you notice any symptoms. 

Choriocarcinoma can occur in the womb after a full term pregnancy, molar pregnancy, a miscarriage or a termination of pregnancy (abortion). It can cause vaginal bleeding. It can also spread to other parts of the body. The symptoms then depend on which part of the body it affects.


You may have any of the following symptoms with invasive mole or choriocarcinoma:

Vaginal bleeding

An invasive mole 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, contact your doctor

Abdominal pain or swelling

You might have some pain or 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 a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) in the body. Most 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 an invasive mole or choriocarcinoma which has spread

Invasive mole and choriocarcinoma start 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 it has spread to your:

  • lungs - you might have a cough, difficulty breathing and sometimes chest pain
  • vagina - you might have heavy bleeding, and your doctor might be able to feel a lump (nodules) in your vagina
  • abdomen - you might have abdominal pain
  • brain - you might have headaches, dizziness and fits (seizures)

These symptoms sound very frightening. But invasive mole and choriocarcinoma are nearly always cured, even if they have 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. Or if you have been registered with your local GTD centre, contact them about any concerns you may have.

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