Gestational Trophoblastic Disease

Written by Jaime Herndon | Published on August 15, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What is Gestational Trophoblastic Disease

Gestational trophoblastic disease, or GTD, is a rare condition that occurs only in women and most often during pregnancy. It is typically associated with tumors of the female reproductive system, but is not always cancerous.

The abnormal cells characteristic of GTD start growing in the tissues formed during conception. Common causes for GTD development include an abnormal number of chromosomes present when sperm and egg meet and any abnormal changes in the placenta.

With early diagnosis and treatment, patients with this condition usually have an excellent outlook.

GTD is very rare. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that this cancer accounts for less than one percent of cancers of the female reproductive system (ACS). According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), GTD can be successfully treated, and in 80 percent of cases, the GTD is not cancerous.(MSKCC) Even if you have had GTD previously, it is possible to go on to have healthy pregnancies.

Types of Gestational Trophoblastic Disease

There are three main types of this disease:

Hydatidiform Mole

This is also commonly referred to as a “molar pregnancy.” This kind of GTD occurs when the sperm and egg connect but fail to make a fetus. This results in cyst-like tissue. It is typically contained to the uterus and is not cancerous.

Chorioadenoma and Choriocarcinoma

These forms of GTD are cancerous. They can develop from a hydatidaform mole or from leftover tissue after a miscarriage or birth. Chorioadenoma develops only in the uterine wall, whereas choriocarcinoma can spread to other organs.

Placental-Site GTD

This type of GTD develops at the site of placental attachment inside the uterus. Typically, it’s contained within the uterus, but it is possible for the disease to spread.

Risk Factors for GTD

There are some factors that may increase your risk of developing GTD. Remember, though, that having one or more does not mean you will definitely develop GTD. If you are concerned about your risk, talk with your doctor.

Risk factors include:

  • age (pregnancy between the ages of 20 and 40)
  • history of molar pregnancy
  • infertility problems

Symptoms that Could be a Sign of GTD

Swelling of the abdomen may be present, along with a variety of symptoms:

  • nausea and vomiting that seem to be more severe than typical pregnancy nausea
  • vaginal bleeding, passing blood clots, or a watery brown vaginal discharge
  • fatigue
  • absence of fetal heart sounds or movement

How Is GTD Diagnosed?

GTD is typically found during routine pregnancy checkups, or because of abnormal symptoms during pregnancy or suspected pregnancy. If your doctor suspects GTD, blood and urine tests can help with the diagnosis. These fluids contain the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). HCG is a hormone found only in pregnant women. In many of those with GTD, it is markedly higher than it should be, although not every woman with GTD will have a higher hCG count.

Imaging tests such as sonograms, MRI, and CT scans can help your doctor diagnose GTD by allowing him or her to see the tissues of the uterus.

Once it has been diagnosed, your doctor may stage your GTD. The stage assigned to your condition describes the extent of disease in your body. However, unlike other cancers, treatment for GTD is typically successful regardless of stage. According to the ACS, other factors such as age and HCG level are more pertinent to prognosis of GTD than staging (ACS).

How Is GTD Treated?

GTD is usually treated with surgery and/or chemotherapy, depending on the situation.

Surgery

Hydatidiform moles and other abnormal growths may be removed by a dilation and curettage (D&C). A D&C procedure involves surgery where tissues within the uterus are removed but the uterus itself remains intact. Another surgical option is a hysterectomy, which removes the uterus.

Chemotherapy

For GTD that has spread, chemotherapy might be necessary.

Treatment for GTD is extremely successful. Many women with a history of GTD go on to have normal, healthy pregnancies. Your doctor will be able to provide insight into the long-term effects of GTD given your specific set of circumstances.

Was this article helpful? Yes No

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.

Article Sources:

More on Healthline

Migraine vs. Chronic Migraine: What Are the Differences?
Migraine vs. Chronic Migraine: What Are the Differences?
There is not just one type of migraine. Chronic migraine is one subtype of migraine. Understand what sets these two conditions apart.
Common Asthma Triggers and How to Avoid Them
Common Asthma Triggers and How to Avoid Them
Learn about some of the most common triggers for asthma, as well as measures you can take to minimize your risk of exposure, symptoms, and flares.
Timeline of an Anaphylactic Reaction
Timeline of an Anaphylactic Reaction
From first exposure to life-threatening complications, learn how quickly an allergy attack can escalate and why it can become life threatening.
Numbness, Muscle Pain and Other RA Symptoms
Numbness, Muscle Pain and Other RA Symptoms
The symptoms of RA are more than just joint pain and stiffness. Common symptoms include loss of feeling, muscle pain, and more. Learn more in this slideshow.
Famous Athletes with Asthma
Famous Athletes with Asthma
Asthma shouldn’t be a barrier to staying active and fit. Learn about famous athletes who didn’t let asthma stop them from achieving their goals.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement