Fallopian Tube Cancer
Fallopian tube cancer is a rare form of gynecologic cancer that occurs when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably in the fallopian tubes that connect the ovaries and the uterus. Sometimes, ovarian cancer occurs in the fallopian tubes. In fact, fallopian tube cancer can look the same as ovarian and peritoneal cancers under the microscope, and there are convincing data that most ovarian cancer actually arises in the fallopian tubes.
Signs and Symptoms of Fallopian Tube Cancer
Symptoms of fallopian tube cancer tend to be similar to signs of other gynecological problems, such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Pelvic mass
- Watery vaginal discharge
Risks Factors Fallopian Tube Cancer
Fallopian tube cancer can occur at any time, but tends to affect women between the ages of 50 and 60 following menopause. These factors may increase risk for fallopian tube cancer:
- A genetic mutation of BRCA1 or BRCA2 or other genes associated with increased risk of cancer
- Close family members who have ovarian cancer
- Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish background
- Endometriosis, a condition in which the uterine lining (endometrium) grows elsewhere in the body, often causing pain
- No births or trouble getting pregnant
- Other cancers such as breast, uterine, or colorectal or colon cancer
Diagnosing Fallopian Tube Cancer
It can be difficult to diagnose fallopian tube cancer. However, based on your symptoms, your medical history, and a thorough physical exam, your gynecologic oncologist may make a diagnosis using the following procedures:
- Biopsy—surgically removes tissue that a pathologist views under a microscope to check for signs of cancer
- CA 125 blood test—measures the level of CA 125, a protein that often indicates the presence of ovarian cancer in the blood
- Computed Tomography (CT) scan (CAT scan)—provides computer-generated images of inside the body using computerized tomography; the images are linked to an X-ray machine for analysis
- Pelvic exam—involves palpating the size, shape, and position of your uterus and ovaries
- Ultrasound—uses high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) to create echoes that form a picture of your pelvic area tissues (sonogram). An effective type of ultrasound is a transvaginal ultrasound.
Treatments for Fallopian Tube Cancer
Your gynecologic oncologist may recommend surgery. Doctors typically treat fallopian tube cancer with a total abdominal hysterectomy. This involves removing the fallopian tubes along with the uterus, cervix, ovaries, and any other evidence of cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible and to assess the spread of cancer (staging).
As needed, your surgeon may recommend drugs to kill cancer cells following surgery--chemotherapy to treat any cancer cells in your body. Intravenous chemotherapy is standard, and in certain situations, we may use HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy), which involves placing heated chemotherapy in the fallopian tube area.