Further tests for persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma | Cancer Research UK
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Further tests for persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma

Men and women discussing gestational trophoblastic tumours

This page tells you about further tests you might have if your doctor has diagnosed persistent trophoblastic disease (PTD) or choriocarcinoma, which are types of gestational trophoblastic tumours (GTTs). There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Further tests for persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma

Persistent trophoblastic disease (PTD) occurs in some women after an abnormal type of pregnancy called a molar pregnancy. Choriocarcinoma is a cancer that is very rare. It can occur in the womb some time after a normal pregnancy, a molar pregnancy, a miscarriage, or a termination of pregnancy (an abortion). These tumours are types of gestational trophoblastic tumour

If you have had a molar pregnancy and the level of a hormone called hCG stays high in your blood or urine your doctor will ask you to have further tests. It could be a sign that there is some molar tissue left behind after surgery, or that the abnormal cells have spread to another part of your body. If you have been diagnosed with choriocarcinoma your doctor will also ask you to have further tests to see if the cancer has spread.

You will have a chest X-ray. This is to check for any spread of disease to your lungs. You may need an ultrasound scan, CT scan or more rarely, an MRI scan. These scans look for signs of the tumour in your abdomen (tummy), brain and liver. Some women may need a lumbar puncture to check for tumour cells in the fluid that circulates around the brain and spinal cord.

After your tests

You may be able to get the results of your tests on the same day. If not, waiting for your test results can be an anxious time. You may find it helpful to talk about your feelings with a close friend or relative. Or you could contact a support group, organisaton or counsellor.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the diagnosing persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma section.

 

 

What PTD and choriocarcinomas are

Persistent trophoblastic disease occurs in some women after an abnormal type of pregnancy called a molar pregnancy. Choriocarcinoma is a cancer that is very rare. It can occur in the womb some time after a normal pregnancy, a molar pregnancy, a miscarriage, or a termination of pregnancy (an abortion). These tumours are types of gestational trophoblastic tumour

If you have had a molar pregnancy and your levels of a hormone called hCG don't go down you will need to have further tests. This could be a sign that there is some molar tissue left behind after surgery, or that it has spread to another part of your body. If you have been diagnosed with choriocarcinoma, you will also need to have further tests. The results of these tests are used for staging your disease and planning treatment.

 

Blood and urine tests

After removal of a molar pregnancy or if your doctor has diagnosed choriocarcinoma, you will need to have regular tests to check the level of hCG hormone in your blood and urine. This hormone should disappear when the molar tissue or choriocarcinoma tissue is gone from your body. But if your blood and urine still show hCG, it is a sign that there are still abnormal cells growing somewhere in your body. 

Your doctor will need to do further tests to check for signs of any spread. 

 

Chest X-ray

You will have a chest X-ray to check for any spread to your lungs. This is the most common place for persistent trophoblastic disease or choriocarcinoma to spread.

 

Scans

If you have choriocarcinoma, or your doctors think you have it, you may need to have an ultrasound scan, CT scan or an MRI scan. These are all ways of looking for signs of the tumour in your abdomen (tummy), brain and liver. 

Ultrasound scans use sound waves. A CT scan takes a series of X-rays through sections of the body. MRI scanners use magnetism to build up a picture of the inside of the body. You can read more detailed information about all these tests in the cancer tests section.

 

Lumbar puncture

Some women may need a lumbar puncture to check for tumour cells in the fluid that circulates around the brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid). There is information about having a lumbar puncture in the cancer tests section.

 

After your tests

Once you have had the tests you need, it may take a few days for the results to be ready. Before you go home, the doctor or nurse will give you an appointment to go back to get your results and see the doctor again. Or, you may be admitted for treatment on the same day as your first appointment at the specialist centre. 

While you are waiting for results it may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel. Or you may want to contact a cancer support group to talk to someone who has been through the same experiences.

You can contact the Cancer Research UK nurses. Our GTT organisations page gives details of people who can also help and support you. You can find details of counselling organisations in our counselling section. Our GTT reading list has information about books and leaflets about gestational trophoblastic tumours and their treatment.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use CancerChat, our online forum. Or go through My Wavelength. This is a free service that aims to put people with similar medical conditions in touch with each other.

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Updated: 22 June 2016