Know Cancer

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  • Choriocarcinoma

    Choriocarcinoma is one of the two rarest forms of cancer, but highly treatable. This condition strikes pregnant women, and develops when trophoblastic cells form the placenta to provide nutrition to the fetus.

    These abnormalities are closely connected to the hydatidiform mole, a mass that forms in the uterus at the beginning of a pregnancy. The tissue from the mole can keep growing, even after the mass has been removed, and turn into cancer. Choriocarcinomas can develop after an abortion, ectopic pregnancy, or genital tumor.

    Choriocarcinoma Signs & Symptoms

    Some patients develop lumps on the uterus, which can be a sign of this condition and make detection easier, but many patients are asymptomatic and will not demonstrate and telltale signs of illness.

    Other symptoms can include:

    • Persistent vaginal bleeding
    • Shortness of breath
    • Coughing up blood
    • Chest pain

    Choriocarcinoma Diagnosis & Treatment

    One of the biggest risks with this type of cancer is that it can spread quickly to other organs from the uterus. Lumps form on the uterus, which can make detection easier, but not all patients develop lumps.

    The amount of HCG (pregnancy hormone) becomes very high in a woman’s body, so she would get a positive result from a pregnancy test even if she is not pregnant. A doctor may also do a complete blood count (CBC), kidney function test, or a liver function test. A CT or CAT scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) are more specific tests that can give a more accurate location of any abnormalities.

    Chemotherapy is the most common form of treatment. In rare cases, a hysterectomy or radiation therapy is also prescribed.

    Choriocarcinoma Outlook

    If the cancer has not spread, most women can recover completely and have full reproductive function. If the cancer has metastasized, or spread, to other areas of the body (particularly the liver or brain), the condition can be harder to treat and the patient will have less chance of a full recovery.

    There is also a reduced chance of recovery if a patient has undergone chemotherapy for treatment of cancer in the past. Approximately 70 percent of women with a poor prognosis go into remission (a disease-free condition).