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Fallopian Tube Cancer Fact Sheet

From the GYN Cancer Articles List

Fitness and Wellness after hysterectomyWhat do I need to know about fallopian tube cancer?

Description

Fallopian tube cancer (FTC) was previously believed to be the rarest of all [u]gynecologic cancers but we now know that most cancers previously labeled “ovarian cancer” actually begin in the fallopian tube. Because of this, the fallopian tubes are now being routinely removed as a prophylatic measure during hysterectomies, thereby reducing the chances of ovarian cancer. On microscopic examination, it is often impossible to determine whether the tumor originated in the fallopian tubes or the ovaries. In these cases, the tumor is almost always classified as ovarian since ovarian cancer is more common than fallopian tube cancer.

There are several types of FTC:
  • Papillary serous adenocarcinomas: Originate in the cells that line the fallopian tubes; the most common of fallopian tube cancers.
  • Leiomyosarcomas: Form within the smooth muscle of the fallopian tubes.
  • Transitional cell carcinomas: Arise in other cells that line the fallopian tubes and are extremely rare.

Risk Factors and Prevention

Fallopian tube cancer is not preventable, although there are ways to minimize the risks. At this time, there are no screening tests for the disease. Some studies indicate that Caucasian women have the highest rate of fallopian tube cancer and Hispanic women the lowest rate. It typically affects women between the ages of 50 and 60 years. Factors which are believed to increase the risk of ovarian cancer may also increase FTC risks. These include hormonal, reproductive, and genetic factors. A history of pregnancy and births and the use of hormonal contraceptives may decrease the risk of FTC significantly. There are several genetic mutations that have been reported in women with FTC; these include the hereditary breast and ovarian cancer genes, particularly BRCA . Women diagnosed with FTC should undergo a complete family history assessment and be offered genetic counseling. In some cases, women with these genetic abnormalities may choose to undergo prophylactic removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes to reduce risk.

Symptoms

Fallopian tube cancer can be difficult to diagnose in its earliest stages. This is because the symptoms are often vague until the disease is advanced. Symptoms of FTC may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, watery discharge (white, clear or pinkish in color), swollen abdomen, and abdominal discomfort or feelings of pressure. The pelvic pain associated with fallopian tube cancer is due to trapped fluid blocking and distending the fallopian tube. This pain is typically referred to as colicky or dull. Therefore, colicky pelvic pain that is relieved by a gush of blood or watery discharge may indicate FTC. It is usually diagnosed after surgical exploration and it is only distinguished as fallopian tube cancer if its origin can be clearly demonstrated.

Prognosis

As with all cancers, the earlier fallopian tube cancer is detected, the better the outcome the may be. The stage of disease at the time of diagnosis is the most important factor affecting prognosis. If FTC is diagnosed and treated before it spreads outside the ovaries and tubes, the 5 year survival rate is high. If it has spread to lymph nodes and/or the peritoneal fluid, the disease becomes more difficult to treat.

Treatment

Surgery is the initial treatment for fallopian tube cancer. A salpingo- oophorectomy (removal of tubes and ovaries) is performed to treat early stage FTC. In more advanced stages, the surgical options include bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, total abdominal hysterectomy, lymphadenectomy, infracolic omenectomy (removal of abdominal lining), appendectomy (removal of appendix), pelvic/peritoneal washings and peritoneal biopsies. Chemotherapy is usually used along with surgery, even in early stages of the disease. This is due to the structure of the fallopian tubes and the risk of shedding cells into the abdominal cavity. In some cases, chemotherapy will be given directly into the abdomen (intraperitoneal chemotherapy). Radiation therapy is not commonly used to treat fallopian tube cancer, but it may be used in cases where chemotherapy is contraindicated or declined. It may also be used to control the symptoms for recurrent fallopian tube cancer. Newer treatments that are seen in ovarian cancer treatment may also be seen in the treatment of FTC, such as biological and targeted therapies (which attack or starve off cancer cells without harming healthy cells).


This information has been complied by staff of HysterSisters.com using data from Medscape, American Society of Clinical Oncology, National Center for Biotechnology Information, UCSFHealth, Oncolink, and Canadian Cancer Society websites. This content was written by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.

03-01-2017 - 12:52 PM


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