Canadian Cancer Society logo
You are here: 

Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG or b-HCG)

Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG or b-HCG) is a hormone normally produced by the placenta during pregnancy. It is also produced by certain cancer cells.

Why an HCG test is done

An HCG test may be done to:

  • confirm a pregnancy
  • help diagnose and monitor a person’s response to treatment for certain cancers
    • testicular cancer
    • gestational trophoblastic disease (cancer that develops from an abnormally fertilized egg)
    • germ cell tumours of the ovary
  • screen high-risk women for a rare type uterine cancer called choriocarcinoma

Back to top

How an HCG test is done

An HCG test is usually done in a private laboratory or hospital laboratory. No special preparation is usually needed.

  • HCG is usually measured by a blood test.
  • The sample is sent to a laboratory to be analyzed by special machines.

Back to top

What the results mean

An increased HCG may be due to:

  • non-cancerous conditions
    • pregnancy
    • some bowel diseases
    • duodenal ulcers
    • liver disease (such as cirrhosis)
  • certain cancers
    • testicular cancer
    • gestational trophoblastic cancers – mainly choriocarcinoma
    • ovarian cancer – particularly germ cell type
    • liver cancer
    • stomach cancer
    • pancreatic cancer
    • lung cancer
    • breast cancer
    • kidney cancer
    • brain cancer

In cancerous conditions:

  • A decrease in, or return to normal values of, HCG may mean that the cancer has responded well to treatment.
  • Anincrease may mean that the cancer is not responding well to treatment, is still growing or is coming back (recurring).
    • A slight increase may not be significant. The doctor looks at trends in the increase over time.

Back to top

What happens if a change or abnormality is found

The doctor will decide if more tests, procedures, follow-up care or additional treatment is needed.

Back to top


Gordie Gosse I never want anyone else to go through what I have been through.

Read Gordie's story

Advocating for cancer patients

Illustration of a bullhorn

Our staff and volunteers meet with elected officials from local, provincial and national governments to persuade them to make the fight against cancer one of their top priorities.

Learn more