Choriocarcinoma is a malignant and very aggressive tumor which originates from the placenta. The tumor can rapidly spread onto the distant organs such as lungs. It occurs either after pregnancy or is associated with the occurrence of a molar pregnancy. In rare occasions choriocarcinoma may also affect men and start from testicles.
The actual cause of choriocarcinoma has not been identified yet. However, there is a connection between a molar pregnancy and the tumor. So women who have had a molar pregnancy are at higher risk of getting choriocarcinoma.
Symptoms of Choriocarcinoma
Initially there are no symptoms of choriocarcinoma. Only in later stages of the disease a patient may complain about certain symptoms and signs. The most common symptoms and signs of choriocarcinoma are irregular vaginal bleeding, lower abdominal pain, swelling of the uterus and the lower abdomen.
Once the carcinoma spreads to the lungs the patients complain about shortness of breath and chest pain. Hemoptysis (coughing up blood) is another possible sign of metastatic spread of choriocarcinoma to the lungs.
In men testicular choriocarcinoma may lead to skin hyperpigmentation, gynecomastia and weight loss. The majority of symptoms in case of testicular choriocarcinoma are actually associated with increased level of β-hCG. This hormone is produced by the very tumor.
In women the doctor first performs gynecological exam. What follows is ultrasound of the pelvis and female reproductive organs. The tumor can be easily visualized by the ultrasound. In case of the presence of tumor blood levels of β-hCG are increased. This hormone is normally increased during pregnancy. However, it is also increased in case of molar pregnancy and in choriocarcinoma.
If a person suffers from lung symptoms he/ she undergoes chest X-ray which may point to the presence of metastases in a form of multiple infiltrates.
Treatment for Choriocarcinoma
Treatment is highly efficient in case choriocarcinoma is diagnosed in early stages. This tumor is highly sensitive to chemotherapeutics and even in case of metastases these medications can successfully kill tumor cells. So there is even a chance for people suffering from metastatic form of choriocarcinoma to be completely cured. The previously mentioned refers to lung metastases. In case of liver and brain metastases the situation is different. Namely, if the tumor spreads to the liver or brain it may be fatal.
Patients are either administered a single chemotherapeutic or a combination of several chemotherapeutics. Hysterectomy is a surgical treatment modality for choriocarcinoma in women over the age of 40 and in those who do not plan to have any more children. Hysterectomy is always performed in case of severe and uncontrollable vaginal bleeding.