The information on this page was reviewed and approved by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on September 21, 2021.

About gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD)

Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) is an umbrella term for a group of rare diseases in which abnormal trophoblast cells grow inside the uterus after conception. According to the National Cancer Institute, after conception, a tumor develops inside the uterus from tissue that is composed of trophoblast cells. This tissue surrounds the fertilized egg in the uterus, and the trophoblast cells help connect the fertilized egg to the wall of the uterus, forming part of the placenta, which supplies the embryo with nourishment from the mother.

GTD occurs after conception in about one pregnancy out of 1,000 in the United States, when the trophoblast cells change and form a mass in the placenta, preventing a healthy fetus from developing. GTD is usually not cancerous, though some tumors may become cancerous and spread. The disease is generally treatable, especially if diagnosed early.

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our gynecologic oncologists are trained and experienced in treating cancerous GTD. They work together with a multidisciplinary team of cancer experts and other clinicians, collaborating in designing a care plan tailored to each patient’s needs and goals. Each patient-focused treatment plan also includes supportive care services designed to help the patient manage, and when possible prevent, side effects of the disease and its treatment.

What causes gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD)?

Risk factors for gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) may vary. Various risk factors associated with a woman’s pregnancy may increase her risk.

They include:

  • Age
  • History of molar pregnancy
  • History of miscarriage
  • Blood type

Learn about the risk factors for GTD

Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) types

Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) is usually identified as a hydatidiform mole (a molar pregnancy) or as gestational trophoblastic neoplasia (GTN). Each disease is categorized into various subtypes.

They include:

  • Complete and partial molar pregnancies
  • Gestational trophoblastic neoplasia (GTN) (typically cancerous), which include:
    • Invasive mole
    • Choriocarcinoma
    • Placental-site trophoblastic tumors (PSTT)
    • Epithelioid trophoblastic tumors (ETT)

Learn about types of GTD

Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) symptoms

The symptoms of gestational trophoblastic disease may be difficult to identify or may be mistaken for other pregnancy-related events.

Symptoms may include:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Anemia
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pelvic pain or pressure

Learn more about symptom of GTD

Diagnosing gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD)

Tests that may be used for diagnosing gestational trophoblastic disease include:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Beta human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) test
  • Lab tests
  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • Computerized tomography scan (CT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Learn more about diagnostic procedures for GTD

Treating gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD)

Treatments for GTD typically include:

Surgery: Surgery is usually the first-line treatment for molar pregnancies, which account for most cases of GTD.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is more commonly used to treat molar pregnancies. It may be used in combination with surgery or alone.

Radiation therapy: Radiation may be used to treat gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD), unless it has spread and is not responding to chemotherapy.

Learn about treatment options for GTD