How Choriocarcinoma Is Diagnosed

Choriocarcinoma is a rare type of cancer that can form inside the uterus. It is usually found in a person who is currently or was recently pregnant.

This condition is often suspected when a patient with a positive pregnancy test has a larger than normal uterus, pelvic masses, or higher-than-expected levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG.

This cancer is fast-growing and can spread quickly, so it is important to get a diagnosis right away. Early detection can improve your outcome.

This article will explain more about the diagnosis process for choriocarcinoma.

Doctor taking patient's blood pressure

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Self-Checks/At-Home Testing 

There are no at-home tests available for diagnosing choriocarcinoma. It would be best if you went to a healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis. However, you can do self-checks for symptoms at home that will help you talk about your condition with a healthcare provider. These self-checks are not a replacement for medical care and a professional diagnosis. 

Check for the following symptoms and discuss them with your healthcare provider:

  • Pelvic pain and pressure 
  • Abnormal or irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Severe nausea and vomiting 
  • High blood pressure 

Physical Examination

A healthcare provider usually starts the diagnosis process by collecting your medical history and doing a physical exam. You should discuss all of the symptoms you are experiencing and how often they happen. 

You may have a pelvic exam that includes a physical and visual examination of the following:

  • Vagina
  • Cervix
  • Rectum
  • Uterus
  • Fallopian tubes
  • Ovaries

During a pelvic exam, a healthcare provider inserts a speculum (medical tool) into the vagina to see the vagina and cervix better. The doctor or other healthcare professional also inserts lubricated, gloved fingers into the vagina to check the uterus and ovaries. The doctor may insert a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to check it.

This exam can show if the uterus is enlarged or if there are pelvic masses, which are symptoms of choriocarcinoma.

Labs and Tests 

Your doctor may also order the following tests:

  • Pap smear: A healthcare provider inserts a speculum into the vagina and collects a small sample of tissue from the cervix that can be sent to the lab. The lab then checks the tissue for abnormal or cancerous cells.
  • Pelvic ultrasound: A healthcare provider uses an ultrasound machine to take pictures of the inside of your pelvis. The test can show abnormalities, such as pelvic masses.
  • Urine tests: You provide a urine sample, and a healthcare provider sends it to a lab for testing. 

Blood Tests

You may need blood tests, including:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Serum beta subunit of human chorionic gonadotropin (beta-hCG)
  • Serum tumor marker test 
  • Kidney function tests
  • Liver function tests

Additional Imaging 

To determine how advanced your cancer is and if it has spread to other organs, you may need the following imaging tests:

Differential Diagnoses

Some of the symptoms of choriocarcinoma are similar to normal pregnancies or other medical conditions. For instance, some people carrying a fetus experience severe vomiting and nausea during a normal pregnancy, but this can also be a symptom of choriocarcinoma. 

To make sure you have the right diagnosis, your healthcare provider may order additional tests and check for other conditions.  

Summary

The diagnosis process for choriocarcinoma starts with collecting your medical history and having a physical examination that includes a pelvic exam. Your healthcare provider may order several lab and imaging tests to check for cancer. 

A Word From Verywell


The diagnosis process for choriocarcinoma can take time and may feel stressful. It is normal for your healthcare provider to order multiple tests or exams before giving an official cancer diagnosis.  

It is important to work with your healthcare provider throughout the diagnosis process, so they can help you navigate it. Also, consider reaching out to friends, family, and other loved ones for additional support. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can any of the diagnostic tests hurt a fetus?

    Some diagnostic tests, such as imaging tests like X-rays, carry some risks for a developing fetus. Talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns you may have. 

  • How soon should the diagnosis process start?

    Early diagnosis improves the outcome of choriocarcinoma, so it is important to start the diagnosis process as soon as possible. You should work with your healthcare provider to get the necessary diagnostic testing. 

  • What are the most common diagnostic tests for choriocarcinoma?

    The most common diagnostic tests include: 

    • Collecting your medical history
    • Having a physical exam
    • Having a pelvic exam and ultrasound  
    • Having blood tests 


  • What does the beta-hCG test measure?

    Beta-hCG is a hormone that the body makes if you are pregnant. If you have choriocarcinoma, your body makes beta-hCG, even if you are not pregnant. High levels of beta-hCG are common with this condition.

     

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    3 Sources
    Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
    1. MedlinePlus. Choriocarcinoma. Updated September 1, 2021.

    2. Merck Manual. Gestational trophoblastic disease. Updated September 2020.

    3. National Cancer Institute. Gestational trophoblastic disease treatment (PDQ®) health professional version. Updated July 31, 2020.