Gestational Trophoblastic Disease: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the changes and medical problems that can be a sign of gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD). Use the menu to see other pages.

People with GTD may experience one or more of the following symptoms or signs. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like 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 try to understand what is causing your symptom(s). They may do an exam and order tests to understand the cause of the problem, which is 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 and supportive care," which is not the same as hospice care given at the end of life. You can receive palliative and supportive care at any time during cancer treatment. This type of care focuses on managing symptoms and supporting people who face serious illnesses, such as cancer. Learn more in this guide’s section on Coping with 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.