Tubal cancer, also known as fallopian tube cancer, is a cancer that develops in the fallopian tubes. The fallopian tubes carry a woman's eggs from her ovaries to her uterus. Every woman has two fallopian tubes, one on each side of the uterus. Tubal cancer occurs when there is an abnormal growth of cells on one or both tubes.
Tubal cancer is very rare, accounting for only one to two percent of all gynecologic cancers.
Women between the ages of 50 and 60 are at higher risk for tubal cancer, although the disease can strike at any age. Caucasian women are at higher risk for the disease as well. Because tubal cancer is so rare, the causes and risk factors are unknown. There is evidence that women who have the gene for breast and ovarian cancer are also at an increased risk for tubal cancer.
Symptoms of Tubal Cancer
The symptoms of tubal cancer may be similar to symptoms of other gynecological problems. They include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause (in general, any vaginal bleeding in a postmenopausal woman should be quickly and carefully evaluated)
- Abnormal pain or a feeling of pressure in the abdomen
- Abnormal vaginal discharge that may be white, clear or tinged with blood
- A pelvic mass or lump, which may be present at the time of diagnosis
Diagnosis of Tubal Cancer
Your doctor will order a number of tests to diagnose the cancer and see if has metastasized (spread). Because it is so rare, and its symptoms often mimic symptoms of other conditions, tubal cancer can be difficult to diagnose. Diagnostic procedures may include:
- Gathering of your medical history and a physical examination
- Pelvic examination, to check for unusual changes or growths in your uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder and rectum
- A blood test to check your CA-125 levels, which are often abnormally high in patients with a gynecologic disease
- Ultrasound-performed transvaginally, meaning the wand will be inserted into the vagina and aimed at the pelvic organs to look for abnormalities
- CT (computed tomography) scan-an X-ray machine which creates a three-dimensional picture of the inside of your body
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)-using magnetic fields to produce a detailed image of your body
Treatment of Tubal Cancer
Frequently, treatment for tubal cancer requires surgery, followed by chemotherapy. Your treatment plan will be individualized, taking into account your age, the type and stage of the tumor, other important medical history, and your personal preferences.
Surgery is part of the treatment for all stages of tubal cancer. For earlier stages, it may be the only treatment. Surgery involves:
- Removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes (called a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy)
- Removal of the omentum, the fatty layer that covers and pads organs in the abdomen, biopsy, or removal of the lymph nodes and other tissues in the pelvis and abdomen
- Removal of the bulk of tumor in the abdomen and pelvis
Studies have shown that surgery performed by a specialist in gynecologic oncology results in a better outcome.
Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy
Chemotherapy is used after surgery to treat any remaining cancer cells or disease, and can also be used if the cancer comes back. Chemotherapy may be given into the veins, or sometimes directly into the abdominal cavity (intra-peritoneal).
Radiation therapy is rarely used to treat tubal cancer in the United States.