Choriocarcinoma is a type of cancer that develops in a woman's uterus (womb). In choriocarcinoma, the placenta that begins to form during pregnancy is replaced by a rapidly growing abnormal tissue. The cancer is highly malignant, in which the abnormal cells multiply and spread rapidly to the other organs of the body, especially the lungs.
What are the causes of choriocarcinoma?
A woman who underwent a molar pregnancy is at a greater risk of developing this cancer of the placenta. In molar pregnancy, an abnormal tissue (tumour) develops in the female productive system. The tumour developed can turn malignant, if it is not removed at the earliest. In some cases, women after healthy delivery may also get choriocarcinoma.
What are the symptoms of choriocarcinoma?
The patient may not show any symptoms, until the cancer has reached the later stages. In its early stages, vaginal bleeding may occur after molar pregnancy or normal delivery. In general, the symptoms that may be observed are as follows:
Diagnosis of choriocarcinoma
- Irregular vaginal bleeding
- Ovarian cysts (Fluid filled sacs within the ovary)
- Lower abdominal pain
- Abnormal swelling of the uterus
- Vomiting or nausea
- Abnormal nipple discharge
- Enlarged uterus resulting in swollen abdomen
- No reduction in the size of the uterus even after delivery
A pelvic examination
is the first test that may help to detect the tumour. The doctor may observe an unusual size or shape of the uterus. Many times, an ultrasound test is performed, in which the sound waves are used to detect the tumours. Blood tests that diagnose abnormally high levels of HCG hormone, despite not being pregnant, may indicate cancer of the placenta.
Treatment of choriocarcinoma
Treatment can be highly effective, if the disease is detected in its early stages. Chemotherapy is primarily used to treat this type of cancer. Large doses of chemotherapy drugs are given to kill the cancer cells. The drugs are taken orally or administered through an injection. Other treatment option involves surgical removal of the woman's uterus. This procedure is known as hysterectomy
and is rarely needed to treat this cancer. In case of molar pregnancy, a procedure known as vacuum aspiration may be used to get rid of unwanted growth.
The chances of recovery completely depend on how far the cancer cells have spread into the body. Early diagnosis is the key to improve the outcome. Careful monitoring of the patient who has undergone a molar pregnancy can help diagnose the disease when it is not in the advanced stage.