Cancer during pregnancy: What you need to know about Choriocarcinoma

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Learn more about how to spot the symptoms of this pregnancy-related cancer and how it is typically treated

Choriocarcinoma is fast-growing type of cancer that occurs in the uterus during or after pregnancy. It is a type of gestational trophoblastic disease wherein abnormal cells grow in the tissue that was meant to form the placenta during pregnancy.

Though rare and often treatable, it's still important for moms-to-be to know about this risky pregnancy-linked disease.

This condition can also occur after pregnancy, usually after a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. But it most commonly happens along with a hydatidiform mole or molar pregnancy.

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What is a molar pregnancy?

A molar pregnancy or hydatidiform mole is an abnormal growth that occurs early in pregnancy. Even if it's removed, the abnormal tissue can continue to grow and evolve into a form of cancer.

Vaginal bleeding and pain are common symptoms experienced by women who recently had a molar pregnancy.

How is it treated?

Once diagnosed, several tests and exams will be done in order to determine if the cancer has spread or metastasized to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy is the usual course of treatment, but radiation therapy and a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) may be recommended in some cases.

What are the risk factors?

The risk of having a molar pregnancy increases with age, particularly over the age of 45. Studies have found that it is most prevalent in Asian women. A history of molar pregnancy also increases your risk of developing it again in the future.

The disease can spread to the lungs, brain, liver, skin, or heart.

If you suspect you are at risk for choriocarcinoma, don't hesitate to consult your OB-Gynecologist to know more.

sources: Medscape.com, Cancer Research UK, Medlineplus.gov, The New York Times

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