Tests for persistent trophoblast
This page tells you about diagnosing persistent trophoblastic disease (PTD) and choriocarcinoma, which are types of gestational trophoblastic tumours (GTTs). There is information about
Tests for persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma
Blood and urine tests
In pregnancy the placenta produces a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). GTTs also produce hCG and the levels are higher than in a normal pregnancy. Measuring the hCG levels in your blood and urine can help to diagnose a GTT. It also plays an important part in monitoring your treatment and picking up GTTs that have come back after treatment.
An ultrasound scan of the abdomen can diagnose many women with GTT. With persistent trophoblastic disease, the scan may show a ball of cells with lots of blood vessels.
Checking your placenta
It is routine after the birth of a baby to look at the placenta carefully to check that it is healthy. A doctor also routinely examines the tissue under a microscope if you’ve had a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the diagnosing persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma section.
Persistent trophoblastic disease is a tumour that can form in the womb after an abnormal type of pregnancy called a molar pregnancy. Choriocarcinoma is a very rare tumour that can occur after a normal pregnancy, a molar pregnancy, a miscarriage or a termination of pregnancy (abortion). These tumours are types of gestational trophoblastic tumour (GTT).
During pregnancy, the placenta produces a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). You need this hormone for your baby to develop. The placenta releases hCG into your bloodstream and you pass the rest in your urine. HCG isn’t normally found in the blood or urine of women who aren’t pregnant.
HCG is also produced by gestational trophoblastic tumours (GTTs), usually at much higher levels than in a normal pregnancy. So measuring the levels of hCG in your blood and urine can help to diagnose persistent trophoblastic tumour or choriocarcinoma. It also plays an important part in checking how well treatment is working and in picking up gestational trophoblastic tumours that have come back after treatment.
Your doctor may also do blood tests for signs of anaemia and to see how well your liver and kidneys are working.
Your doctor will ask you to go back to the hospital when your test results have come through. But this is bound to take a little time, even if only a few days. This is a very anxious time for most people.
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 for information. Our GTT organisations page gives details of other people who can help and support you. You can also 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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