Fallopian tube cancer is a rare type of gynecological cancer that develops in the tubes that connect the uterus to the ovaries and are called fallopian tubes. It is often diagnosed in its early stages because very rarely does fallopian tube cancers exist without any signs and symptoms.
- Risk factors
- Fertility and fallopian tube cancer
- When to consult a doctor?
Symptoms of fallopian tube cancer
Symptoms of fallopian tube cancer can be easily dismissed as they can indicate other health conditions, some of these are:
- Abdominal pain or bloating
- Pain in pelvis
- Pain in the lower back
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Inter-menstrual bleeding
- Frequent urination
- Increased urgency to urinate
- Mass in pelvis
- Watery or blood-tinged vaginal discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
Causes of fallopian tube cancer
In most cases, fallopian tube cancer is cancer that started somewhere else in the reproductive system or the body and metastasizes to reach the fallopian tubes.
Other times cancer that originates in the fallopian tubes is due to association with a genetic mutation known as BRCA. This mutation is also responsible for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Types of fallopian tube cancers
There are different types, depending upon the type of cells involved:
- Epithelial cancer
- Germ cell/stromal cancer
- Adnexal tumors
Fallopian tube cancer is a rare type of cancer and has risk factors associated with it. Females have a higher chance of developing it if they:
- Have a history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer
- Age above 50 years
- Do not breastfeed
- Have an irregular menstrual cycle
- Have endometriosis
- Early menarche
- Late menopause
- Fertility issues
Staging of fallopian tube cancer
Stages of fallopian tube cancer allow the physician to determine the extent of the disease and decide a suitable treatment option for the condition. The stages are as follows:
- Stage 1: Cancer is limited to the fallopian tube, it can affect one or both tubes.
- Stage 2: Cancer has spread outside the fallopian tube and has affected the neighboring tissues, within the vicinity of the pelvic region.
- Stage 3: Cancer has now metastasized to the neighboring lymph nodes and organs, within and outside the pelvic region.
- Stage 4: It has metastasized to distant organs like the brain, heart, lungs, and liver.
Fertility and fallopian tube cancer
Fallopian tube cancer does affect fertility. As the egg from the ovary has to pass through fallopian tubes and get fertilized by a sperm. Removal of fallopian tubes as treatment makes it impossible for the egg to get fertilized naturally. However, in-vitro fertilization can be done and a female can conceive.
There is no way to prevent cancer but high-risk patients can reduce the chances by taking the following measures:
- Prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy in individuals who have changes in their BRCA gene
- Try to breastfeed your newborn
- Use hormonal contraceptive method over and implant
- Cut back on alcohol consumption and quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Loose extra weight, if you’re obese
Management of fallopian tube cancer
Fallopian tube cancer is a rare type of cancer but has prominent signs and symptoms which allow early diagnosis and easy management of the disease.
Fallopian tube cancer is diagnosed in the early stages, these are some diagnostic techniques that are used:
- Pelvic examination to look for a mass or lump
- CA-125 blood tests to look for its high level
- Transvaginal ultrasound to look for a tumor
- A genetic test to look for gene mutations in the BRCA gene
- MRI and CT Scan to have a better picture and determine the spread of cancer
- Laparoscopy to visualize the fallopian tubes using a laparoscope
- Biopsy to confirm the presence of cancer cells
The treatment method depends upon the extent of disease staging, the patient’s general health status, and her wish to conceive or not to conceive in the future. Some of the possible options are:
- Salpingo-oophorectomy, to remove just the diseased tube and its ovary, is done in females who wish to conceive in the future
- Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy involves the removal of both the fallopian tubes
- Hysterectomy is done in females who don’t plan on getting pregnant in the future
- Surgical biopsy and then removal of the omentum is done if cancer has metastasized beyond the pelvis
- Bowel resection if cancer has spread to the rectum
Drugs are used to target the cancer cells and kill them or hinder their growth. This is usually done after surgery to completely make the person cancer-free.
Radiations are used internally or externally to kill the cancer cells. This is also done in combination with the surgery.
When to consult a doctor?
If you have a family history of breast, uterine or fallopian tube cancer and have been experiencing any abnormal sign or symptom after menopause, you should not ignore it. Signs such as abnormal bleeding, postmenopausal bleeding, pelvic pain, drastic weight loss, and loss of appetite should be given attention and an appointment with a physician should be booked as soon as possible.
How rare is fallopian tube cancer?
Fallopian tube cancer comprises only 1 to 2% of all the cancers that affect the female reproductive system.
Is fallopian tube cancer the same as ovarian cancer?
Fallopian tube cancer is similar to epithelial ovarian cancer and has similar symptoms and treatment methods but it is not the same.
Can you get pregnant after the removal of fallopian tubes?
Yes, in vitro fertilization among other options can be done to conceive a child.