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.
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
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.
An increased HCG may be due to:
- non-cancerous conditions
- 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.
The doctor will decide if more tests, procedures, follow-up care or additional treatment is needed.
We realize that our efforts cannot even be compared to what women face when they hear the words ... ‘you have cancer.’
Cancer information in over a hundred languages
The Canadian Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Service (CIS) is Canada’s only national, bilingual, toll-free service that offers personalized comprehensive cancer information in over 100 languages.