Saanichton, BC

Dr. Miguel A. Lipka

Fallopian Tube Cancer

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Fallopian tube cancer, also known as tubal cancer, develops in the fallopian tubes that connect the ovaries and the uterus.

It is very rare and accounts for only 1 percent to 2 percent of all gynecologic cancers. About 1,500 to 2,000 cases of fallopian tube cancer have been reported worldwide. Approximately 300 to 400 women are diagnosed with the condition annually in North America. It is more common for cancer to spread, or metastasize, from other parts of the body, such as the ovaries or endometrium, than for cancer to actually originate in the fallopian tubes.

Fallopian tube cancer typically affects women between the ages of 50 and 60, although it can occur at any age. It is more common in Caucasian women who have had few or no children. Because this cancer is so rare, little is known about what causes it. However, researchers are investigating whether genetics play a role. There is evidence that women who have inherited the gene linked to breast and ovarian cancer, called BRCA1, are also at an increased risk of developing fallopian tube cancer.

Symptoms of fallopian tube cancer also may mimic those of other gynecological problems. Some of the more common symptoms of the disease may include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause
  • Abdominal pain or a feeling of pressure in the abdomen
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge that is white, clear or pinkish
  • A pelvic mass at the time of diagnosis, which is present in up to two-thirds of patients

The initial approach to tubal cancer is generally surgical and similar to that of ovarian cancer. As the lesion will spread first to the adjacent uterus and ovary, a total abdominal hysterectomy is an essential part of this approach and removes the ovaries, the tubes, and the uterus with the cervix. Also, peritoneal washings are taken, the omentum is removed, and pelvic and paraaortic lymph nodes are sampled. Staging at the time of surgery and pathological findings will determine further steps.

In advanced cases when the cancer has spread to other organs and cannot be completely removed cytoreductive surgery is used to lessen the tumor burden for subsequent treatments. Surgical treatments are typically followed by adjuvant chemotherapy. Also for palliative or curative indications, radiation therapy has been applied with some success to patients with tubal cancer.