Fallopian tube cancer develops in the tubes that connect a woman's ovaries and uterus. It is very rare and accounts for only 1-2% of all gynecological cancers.
Fallopian tube cancer occurs when normal cells in one or both tubes change and grow in an uncontrolled way, forming a mass called a tumor. Cancer can begin in any of the different cell types that make up the fallopian tubes. The most common type is called adenocarcinoma (a cancer of cells from glands). Leiomyosarcoma (a cancer of smooth muscle cells) and transitional cell carcinoma (a cancer of the cells lining the fallopian tubes) are more rare.
While some fallopian tube cancers actually begin in the tubes themselves, fallopian tube cancer is more often the result of cancer spreading from other parts of the body to the tubes.
Women with fallopian tube cancer may experience symptoms, although some affected women may have no symptoms at all. The signs of fallopian tube cancer are often non-specific, meaning that they can also be signs of other medical conditions that are not cancer.
Signs and symptoms of fallopian tube cancer can include:
- Irregular or heavy vaginal bleeding (especially after menopause)
- Occasional abdominal or pelvic pain or feeling of pressure
- Vaginal discharge that may be clear, white, or tinged with blood
- Pelvic mass or lump
- Unilateral colicky pain
The causes of fallopian tube cancer is not clear. Fallopian tube cancer usually occurs in postmenopausal women in their 50s and 60s but occasionally is found in younger women.
Doctors use many tests to diagnose cancer of the fallopian tubes. Some of these tests may include: pelvic examination, transvaginal ultrasound, a blood test that measures the tumor marker CA-125, computer tomography CT or CAT scan and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
If fallopian tube cancer is diagnosed and treated before they spread outside tubes, the general 5-year survival rate is about 90%. Approximately 15% of cases are diagnosed at this stage. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs, the 5-year survival rate is 75%. If the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 30%.
However, the rate varies widely depending on age of the woman, as well as the stage and grade of the cancer.
Fallopian tube cancer can be best treated when detected early. If the cancer has spread to the walls of the tubes or outside of the tubes, then there is a lower chance that the disease can be treated successfully. The stage of the cancer determines the type of treatment needed. Most women will need surgery and some will go on to have chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Bevacizumab (Avastin) - FDA-approved indication: Either in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel or in combination with carboplatin and gemcitabine, followed by Avastin as a single agent, is indicated for the treatment of patients with platinum-sensitive recurrent epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer.
Refer to Resource Publications.