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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.
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Volunteers provide comfort and kindness
Thousands of Canadian Cancer Society volunteers work in regional cancer centres, lodges and community hospitals to support people receiving treatment.