Symptoms of Choriocarcinoma

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Choriocarcinoma is a type of tumor that develops inside the uterus. It usually affects people who are currently or were recently pregnant. It is considered a rare and fast-growing cancer.

Choriocarcinoma is one type of gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD). GTD is a condition that starts from the trophoblastic cells, which help an embryo (a fertilized egg) attach to the uterine wall. In a healthy pregnancy, these cells eventually become the placenta. But abnormal cells in the tissues of the uterine wall can form a tumor.

This article will explain more about choriocarcinoma symptoms and possible complications. 

Patient dicussing scans with doctor

JGI / Tom Grill / Getty Images

Frequent Symptoms

Symptoms can differ from person to person. In addition, many choriocarcinoma symptoms are similar to some normal pregnancy symptoms, so diagnosis can be difficult.

Common symptoms include:

  • Abnormal or irregular vaginal bleeding 
  • Pelvic pain with or without vaginal bleeding
  • Pelvic pressure 
  • Enlargement of the ovaries and uterus 
  • Cysts or nodules forming inside the ovaries 
  • Anemia (low number of red blood cells) 
  • Hyperemesis gravidarum (severe nausea and vomiting) 

Since some symptoms can be hard to distinguish from normal pregnancy or other conditions, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider and get regular prenatal care. You should tell your healthcare provider about all of the symptoms you are experiencing. 

Rare Symptoms 

It is possible to have other symptoms, especially if the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. If it spreads to the brain, it can cause neurological problems. If it spreads to the chest area, it can affect breathing.

Rare symptoms of choriocarcinoma include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Seizures 
  • Chest pain 
  • Coughing 
  • Problems breathing 
  • Stomach pain 

Complications  

It is possible to have complications because of choriocarcinoma. They can include:

  • Uterine infections
  • Sepsis (life-threatening response to infection) 
  • Hemorrhagic shock (life-threatening response to severe blood loss) 
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure)

Choriocarcinoma can also spread through your blood to reach other organs, such as the lungs, and cause additional complications.

When to See a Doctor/Go to the Hospital

Talk to your healthcare provider or go to the hospital if you have:

  • Heavy or sudden vaginal bleeding while pregnant 
  • Tissue passing from the vagina while pregnant 
  • Leaking fluid from the vagina while pregnant 
  • Severe vomiting and nausea that prevents you from keeping anything down
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Severe pelvic pain
  • Lower back pain 
  • Chest pain 
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures 

If you have any concerns about your health or the health of your fetus, call 911 or go to the hospital right away. 

Summary

Choriocarcinoma is rare type of cancer that starts inside the uterus and can spread to other organs in the body. It often affects someone during or right after a pregnancy. The most common symptoms are vaginal bleeding and pain.

A Word From Verywell

Choriocarcinoma is very rare, so it is unlikely that your symptoms will turn out to be this cancer. Still, having symptoms can be stressful, especially if you are pregnant. It is important to get regular prenatal care and not miss any appointments. If you do receive a diagnosis, your physicians, oncology team, and other healthcare providers will work together to help you create a treatment plan. 

If you get prompt treatment for choriocarcinoma, then the outlook is usually good. Most people can make a full recovery from this type of cancer. Early detection can improve the outcome for choriocarcinoma. Many patients are able to have children in the future after cancer goes into remission.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who can get choriocarcinoma?

    People who have a uterus can get choriocarcinoma. Most choriocarcinomas start in the uterus after sperm fertilizes an egg. They usually affect someone who:

    • Is currently pregnant
    • Was recently pregnant
    • Had a miscarriage
    • Had an ectopic pregnancy (fertilized egg is implanted outside the uterus)
    • Had an abortion 
    • Had a molar pregnancy (noncancerous tumor in the uterus)

    It is possible to have this type of cancer even if you had a normal pregnancy and gave birth.

  • How common is choriocarcinoma in the United States?

    Choriocarcinoma affects an estimated two to seven out of 100,000 pregnancies in the United States.

  • When can you have choriocarcinoma?

    It is possible to have choriocarcinoma during pregnancy or right after one. The cancer can also appear weeks, months, or years after a normal or abnormal pregnancy.

  • What are the most common symptoms?

    Vaginal bleeding and pain are the most common symptoms of choriocarcinoma. However, other symptoms can also occur.

  • Do symptoms get worse over time?

    It is possible for symptoms to get worse over time. This is more likely to happen if you do not seek treatment. Symptoms can become worse if the choriocarcinoma spreads to other organs and starts to affect them.

  • Can choriocarcinoma spread to other organs?

    Yes, choriocarcinoma can spread to other organs in the body, especially the:

    • Lungs
    • Liver
    • Brain
    • Pelvis
    • Intestines
    • Kidneys


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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Choriocarcinoma. Updated September 1, 2021.

  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Gestational trophoblastic disease. Updated September 1, 2021.

  3. Merck Manual. Gestational trophoblastic disease. Updated September 2020.

  4. National Cancer Institute. Gestational trophoblastic disease treatment (PDQ®) health professional version. Updated July 31, 2020.