Gestational Trophoblastic Disease: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 10/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

People with gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) may experience the following symptoms or signs. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like by taking your blood pressure or doing a lab test. Together, symptoms and signs can help describe a medical problem. Sometimes, people with GTD do not have any of the symptoms and signs described below. Or, the cause of a symptom or sign may be a medical condition that is not GTD.

The symptoms of GTD may resemble those of a normal pregnancy. They may also be similar to a spontaneous abortion, also called a miscarriage, or to an ectopic pregnancy. However, the following symptoms could signal a potential problem:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding during or after pregnancy

  • A uterus that is larger than expected at a given point in the pregnancy

  • Severe nausea or vomiting during pregnancy

  • High blood pressure at an early point in the pregnancy, which may include headaches and/or swelling of the feet and hands

  • A pregnancy where the baby has not moved at the expected time

  • Pain or pressure in the pelvic area

  • Abdominal swelling

  • Anemia, which is a low red blood cell count that can cause fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, or an irregular heartbeat

  • Anxiety or irritability, including feeling shaky or experiencing severe sweating

  • Sleep problems

  • Unexplained weight loss

Occasionally, symptoms may appear weeks, months, or even years after a normal pregnancy and birth.

In rare situations, if a cancerous GTD has spread beyond the uterus at the time of diagnosis, other symptoms may occur based on the location of the disease. In this case, GTD may be misdiagnosed as another health problem. For example, the spread of choriocarcinoma to the brain may result in bleeding, which can be mistaken for a brain aneurysm. A human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) blood test (see Diagnosis) can help the health care team better understand the problem.

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing any symptom, in addition to other questions. This is to help figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If GTD is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of your care and treatment. Managing symptoms may also be called "palliative care" or "supportive care." It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.