Glossary

beta qual: Blood test that detects pregnancy based on the quality of the hCG in a blood sample. This is the blood test normally done when a pregnancy is suspected. It indicates the presence of elevated hCG, but does not give a specific amount of hCG.

beta quant: Blood test used to detect the exact amount of hCG in women with gestational trophoblastic neoplasia. This test is used for nonroutine detection of hCG. “Normal” levels of hCG are generally considered to be levels less than 5, although this varies among physicians and facilities.

choriocarcinoma: Cancerous form of gestational trophoblastic neoplasia that develops in placental tissue and may metastasize to other parts of the body. Usually curable if caught early enough and treated aggressively with chemotherapy.

dilation and curettage, D&C: A minor procedure in which the cervix is expanded enough to permit the cervical canal and the lining of the uterus to be scraped with an instrument known as a curette. This procedure is sometimes done after a miscarriage or during an abortion.

ectopic pregnancy: Pregnancy in which the fertilized egg implants not in the uterus but in the fallopian tube, ovary, or abdominal cavity. This is a serious condition and must be treated quickly.

gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) or gestational trophoblastic neoplasia (GTN): “Umbrella” terms for any condition in women in which potentially cancerous cells develop in the placental tissues, including molar pregnancy and choriocarcinoma.

human chorionic gonadotropin, hCG: Hormone produced by the placenta that is detected by blood and urine pregnancy tests to indicate a pregnancy.

hydatidiform mole: An abnormal growth of the membrane that encloses the embryo and gives rise to the placenta. If a mole develops, the embryo is usually either absent or dead. The mole itself is a collection of cysts that contain a jellylike substance and resemble a cluster of grapes. These cysts can grow very large if not removed, but most are removed by suction curettage (D&C). In a few cases, the mole can spread into the uterine muscle and cause bleeding. In very rare cases these moles can develop into choriocarcinoma.

molar pregnancy: An abnormality of the placenta caused by a problem when the egg and sperm join together at fertilization.

complete mole: Occurs when sperm fertilizes an empty egg. No baby is formed, but placental tissue develops. The placenta grows rapidly and produces hCG.

partial mole: Occurs when two sperm fertilize the same egg. Something goes wrong, resulting in a pregnancy with an abnormal fetus and placenta. The fetus, which has too many chromosomes, usually dies in the uterus.

ultrasound, abdominal: A painless, noninvasive procedure in which sound waves are used to produce images of the inside of the body. Reflected sound waves are received by instruments called transducers, which are small, hand-held devices that are moved back and forth across a patient’s abdomen to form an image. A lubricating gel placed on the abdomen helps facilitate movement of the transducer.

ultrasound, vaginal: A form of ultrasound in which special probes are inserted into the vagina to obtain better images of a fetus or other uterine condition.