Gestational trophoblastic cancers, or placental cancers, are a rare type of cancer in which cancer cells grow in the tissues that are formed following conception. Gestational trophoblastic tumors start inside the uterus. This type of cancer occurs in women during the years when they are able to have children. There are two types of gestational trophoblastic tumors: hydatidiform mole and choriocarcinoma.
With a hydatidiform mole, also called a molar pregnancy, the sperm and egg cells have joined without the development of a baby in the uterus. Instead, the tissue that is formed resembles grape-like cysts. Hydatidiform mole does not spread outside of the uterus to other parts of the body.
If a patient has a choriocarcinoma, the tumor may have started from a hydatidiform mole or from tissue that remains in the uterus following an abortion or delivery of a baby. Choriocarcinoma can spread from the uterus to other parts of the body.
A gestational trophoblastic tumor is not always easy to find. In its early stages, it may look like a normal pregnancy. A woman should see her doctor if she has unusual vaginal bleeding or if she is pregnant and the baby has not moved at the expected time.
How is a trophoblastic cancer diagnosed?
A trophoblastic cancer is suspected when a woman has a positive pregnancy test without evidence of a pregnancy within her uterus. In some cases, a woman will have a lung or brain mass and positive pregnancy test, yet no evidence of pregnancy within the uterus.
Can a woman get pregnant after being treated for a trophoblastic cancer?
Yes. In most cases, the cancer can be treated with chemotherapy alone, allowing the uterus, tubes and ovaries to be left in place. It is recommended that women wait at least a year after completing chemotherapy before trying to get pregnant.