What is Choriocarcinoma?

Choriocarcinoma is an aggressive type of cancer that occurs in a woman's uterus and grows very quickly. It is a highly malignant cancer composed of cells that line the developing placenta during pregnancy. Choriocarcinoma is rare and typically happens when a normal pregnancy has been interrupted, leading to a large number of placental cells remaining in the uterus. These cells can then grow out of control and form a mass called a choriocarcinoma.

Causes of Choriocarcinoma

Choriocarcinoma usually occurs after a normal pregnancy. It usually starts from placental cells that remain in the uterus after the pregnancy has been terminated. These cells can then grow out of control and form a mass called a choriocarcinoma. Additional causes and risk factors include:

  • Abortion, especially if it is incomplete or accompanied by heavy bleeding.
  • Not fully removing a molar pregnancy.
  • A previous diagnosis of choriocarcinoma.
  • Being over 35.
  • Exposure to certain substances, such as drugs, radiation, and toxic chemicals.

Symptoms of Choriocarcinoma

Common signs and symptoms of choriocarcinoma include:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal swelling or pain
  • Feeling tired
  • Weight loss
  • Abnormal heart rhythms

Any of these symptoms should be discussed with a doctor. Even if they are not caused by cancer, it is important to have them properly diagnosed.

Diagnosis of Choriocarcinoma

To diagnose choriocarcinoma, a doctor may recommend the following tests:

  • Ultrasound and other imaging tests to identify any suspicious masses in the uterus.
  • Blood tests to measure levels of certain proteins that may indicate the presence of a tumor.
  • Biopsy to confirm the presence of cancerous cells.

Treatment of Choriocarcinoma

The main treatments for choriocarcinoma include:

  • Surgery to remove the cancerous tissue.
  • Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells and shrink the tumor.
  • Radiation therapy to target the tumor.

In addition, some patients may be prescribed hormone therapy to help prevent recurrence of the cancer.

Outlook for Choriocarcinoma

Choriocarcinoma is a very aggressive form of cancer and requires immediate treatment. The outlook for recovery depends on the stage of the cancer and how it responds to treatment. Most choriocarcinomas can be cured with prompt treatment. Patients should seek prompt medical attention if they have any of the symptoms listed above.