On this page I am discussing treatment of choriocarcinoma.
Spontaneous healing of choriocarcinoma
In many cases a hydatiform mole , another term for choriocarcinoma, may spontaneously dissolve on its own and be expelled. By all means, in this case the physician will follow the beta-hCG for awhile to ensure that all of the trophoblastic tissue was expelled and there is no recurrence. In addition, the physician prescribes the woman also 6 months of contraceptive medication.
Suction curettage of persistent choriocarcinoma
On the other hand, if a mole comes back or it does not dissolve spontaneously, the doctor has to remove it with suction curettage, where all of the hydatidiform tissue is removed from the uterine cavity. Of course, this is carefully monitored with beta-HCG levels later to ensure that the last tissue bits have been removed. It takes about 10-12 weeks for the blood titre to clear even when all the tissue has been removed. Generally speaking, the direction of the elimination curve, when the titers are plotted as a graph, will tell the physician whether or not all the tissue has been removed or not. About 80% of patients do not need any further therapy than this.
Combination chemotherapy for high risk choriocarcinoma
It is important to realize that patients with high risk molar pregnancy receive treatment with combination chemotherapy consisting of methotrexate, dactinomycin and chlorambucil. The physician administers several courses until the beta-HCG levels are normal for 3 successive weeks. There are other successful combination chemotherapy regimens. In most patients with multiple metastases there is a success rate of 80%, which is excellent when compared with old figures just a few decades ago. However, patients with liver and brain metastases only get response rates of 60% to 70%.
Chemotherapy/radiation combination for brain and liver metastases
I like to point out that specialists developed special protocols for patients with brain or liver metastases. The physician prescribes combination chemotherapy with 6 or 7 drugs. At the same time the patient receives also radiotherapy to the metastases in the liver or in the brain.
The physician defines the end point for brain metastases by taking cerebrospinal fluid samples through a lumbar puncture and sending these samples for beta-HCG analysis until levels turn negative. Here is the 10-year survival data following the above guidelines (Ref. 2):
10-year survival for gestational trophoblastic disease
|Stage:||10-year survival ( % ):|
|0 A||98 %|
|0 B||95 %|
|* locally invasive hydatidiform mole|
|** stage II to IV are called choriocarcinoma|
Notably, compared to only a few decades ago these survival statistics are amazingly good as at that time for stage I typical cancer survival rates for 10-years would have been only 40% and for stage IV a highly successful survival rate would have been about 10%! As always, with any kind of cancer, early detection and prompt treatment is extremely important as can be seen from this table.
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2. Cancer: Principles&Practice of Oncology. 5th edition, volume 1. Edited by Vincent T. DeVita, Jr. et al. Lippincott-Raven Publ., Philadelphia,PA, 1997. Chapter on gynecological tumors.
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