Fallopian tube cancer is a malignant cancer that originates in a woman’s fallopian tubes. It is a rare cancer that mainly affects white women between the ages of 60 – 79.
Fallopian tube cancer makes up approximately 1% of all gynecological cancers. The cause is not known; however, there is an association with endometriosis. Also, women who have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations are believed to be at a higher risk for developing fallopian tube cancer.
Signs & Symptoms
Unfortunately, there are usually very few symptoms of fallopian tube cancer. However, some patients may experience general pain in their abdomen. Others may have postmenopausal bleeding or an unusual vaginal discharge.
Since it is an internal cancer and has few symptoms, fallopian tube cancer can be difficult to diagnose. If it has formed a mass it is sometimes discovered during a routine pelvic exam. Doctors perform several tests to confirm that it is in fact fallopian tube cancer. These include a papanicolaou smear test and an endometrial biopsy.
Imaging tests can then be used to locate the location and size of the tumor. Often staging is completed only after surgery has been performed. During surgery physicians can determine if the cancer has spread and exactly how far along it has progressed.
Surgery is the first line of treatment for fallopian tube cancer. Often a total hysterectomy is performed in order to prevent the cancer from spreading. This includes removing the ovaries, uterus and cervix. During surgery nearby lymph nodes can also be tested. Surgery is often combined with chemotherapy and radiation treatments to prevent the cancer from returning. In advanced stages of fallopian tube cancer the cancer usually is not curable, but surgery can be used to relieve symptoms and complications from the tumor.
Prognosis for those diagnosed with fallopian tube cancer varies greatly based on the stage of the cancer. The average five-year survival rate is 51%. Stage 1 fallopian tube cancer has a 65% five-year survival rate, but for later stages that percentage drops significantly to just 10 – 20%.