Fallopian Tube Cancer and Its Symptoms and Treatments
What is fallopian tube cancer?
Once thought to be rare, research studies have revealed new information about fallopian tube cancer. It is now known that most ovarian cancers actually begin in a fallopian tube before spreading to the ovaries. Most cancers that start in the fallopian tube are epithelial and begin in the distal (outer) end of the tube, where eggs released from the ovary enter to be fertilized.
Ovarian cancer is widely used in reference to cancers that begin in the cells in the ovary, fallopian tube and peritoneum — a tissue that lines the abdomen and most of the abdominal organs.
Although fallopian tube cancer and ovarian cancer share symptoms and treatments, fallopian tube cancer is its own disease, with two very rare forms:
- Leiomyosarcoma – Arises from the smooth muscle of the fallopian tube.
- Transitional cell cancer – Grows within other cells that line the fallopian tubes.
Common risk factors of fallopian tube cancer
Knowing your risk factors and discussing them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and healthcare choices. The following factors may raise a woman’s risk of developing fallopian tube cancer:
- Family history of breast or ovarian cancer – Experts believe that genetic mutations (harmful changes in the gene) in families are passed from generation to generation. This puts women at higher risk for fallopian tube cancer.
- Age – Even though women of all ages have some risk of fallopian tube cancer, women over 50 are more likely to develop malignancies. The average age of women diagnosed with this cancer is 60 to 62 years.
- Obesity – According to recent studies, women who were obese in early adulthood are 50% more likely to develop fallopian tube cancer.
- Reproductive history –Women who have never had children or who have experienced unexplained infertility may be at a higher risk of fallopian tube cancer.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – Women who have taken estrogen-only HRT after menopause may be at greater risk. This risk increases the longer you use the therapy and decreases over time after the therapy ends.
The challenge of early detection of fallopian tube cancer
Early detection is a key advantage when facing any type of cancer. But in cases of fallopian tube cancer, early detection can be very difficult, since the symptoms can be vague until the disease is advanced. Adding to this challenge is the fact that no current screening method can detect abnormalities until cancer is suspected. However, the following exams and advanced imaging tests are used to diagnose fallopian tube cancer and determine its stage:
- Abdominal/pelvic exam
- Transvaginal ultrasound
- Blood tests
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Positron emission tomography (PET) or PET-CT scan.
- Lower gastrointestinal (GI) tests
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Fallopian tube cancer’s unsuspecting symptoms
It is possible that women with fallopian tube cancer show no symptoms. Very often, patients don’t experience symptoms until a tumor is large or in later stages of the disease. In addition, many signs are non-specific and may be caused by a noncancerous medical condition. Being vigilant, especially if you are in a high-risk group, is your best chance to recognize the symptoms of this cancer:
- Abdominal bloating
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency
- Upset stomach
- Back pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Menstrual irregularities
- Pelvic mass or lump
- A watery vaginal discharge that may be clear, white or tinged with blood
Treating fallopian tube cancer
If you are diagnosed with fallopian tube cancer, there are several crucial factors to consider regarding treatment. Your doctor will recommend the most effective therapy based on the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects and your ability to cope with those side effects.
For you, treatments can impact your sexual health and fertility. If you’re planning to have children in the future, take all the time you need to ask every question that comes to mind. Your RCCA doctor will help you understand the advantages and risks so you can make the right choice for you. Treatments for fallopian tube cancer are often combined or used in sequence and include:
Discover RCCA’s leading edge care for fallopian tube cancer
When it comes to helping you beat fallopian tube cancer, RCCA is a true leader. We proudly offer vast yet accessible resources and an extensive network of highly skilled surgeons and multidisciplinary teams to give you constant support.
We also regularly participate in clinical trials. These research studies test new approaches to cancer therapies for safety and efficacy. Clinical trials also give patients access to new drugs, new combinations of therapies, or new doses of standard drugs or other treatments. Should you decide to participate, your RCCA doctor will help you understand every aspect of your clinical trial.