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A choriocarcinoma is type of cancer germ cell containing trophoblast cells.
Choriocarcinomas are cancers that develop from germ cells, cells that ordinarily turn into sperm or eggs. Choriocarcinomas resemble the cells that surround an
Choriocarcinomas are one of the most dangerous germ cell cancers. Choriocarcinomas usually grow quickly and spread widely. Occasionally, this cancer grows so fast that the original tumor outgrows its blood supply and dies, leaving behind only a small scar.
The symptoms of a choriocarcinoma vary, depending on where the tumor originates and where it spreads. In the uterus, the most common symptom is bleeding. Cancers in the ovary often have only subtle signs such as widening of the waistline or pain. In the testes, choriocarcinomas can often be felt as small painless lumps. Choriocarcinomas that spread to other organs may reveal their presence by bleeding. In the brain, this bleeding can cause a stroke.
Choriocarcinomas are usually referred to an oncologist, a doctor who specializes in cancer treatment. To diagnose this tumor, the doctor will do a physical examination and examine the internal organs with x rays or ultrasound studies. Choriocarcinomas are not always biopsied before being treated, because they tend to bleed heavily. Spreading of the cancer is detected with x rays, ultrasound studies, computed tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Most choriocarcinomas make human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone normally found only during pregnancy. The presence of hCG in the blood can help diagnose this cancer and monitor the success of treatment.
Author Info: Anna Rovid Spickler D.V.M., Ph.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2002
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