Cancer of the Fallopian Tubes
Types of Cancers
The fallopian tubes are the vehicle by which a woman's eggs travel from her ovaries to her uterus. Cancer of the fallopian tubes is the abnormal growth of malignant cells in one or both of a woman's fallopian tubes. About 95% of fallopian tube cancers are adenocarcinomas and grow from cells that line the fallopian tubes. Once cells begin to divide in abnormal patterns, tumors may form. On rare occasions, tumors form from the smooth muscle of the fallopian tubes and in this case are called sarcomas. In other cases, another type of tumor can form from cells that line the fallopian tubes and these are called transitional cell carcinomas as distinguished from adenocarcinomas.
Fallopian tube cancer, at 1%, is the rarest of all gynecologic cancers. Only about 3.6 women out of one million get fallopian tube cancer in a given year. The disease tends to hit women between the ages of 60-64 though women can get the disease up to their early or mid-80's. While the disease is more prevalent among Caucasian women, the cause for this is unknown.
Because the disease is so rare, the causes and risk factors for the development of fallopian tube cancers are not yet known. There is a hypothesis, not yet proven, that chronic infection of the fallopian tubes can lead to the development of such cancers.
The symptoms of fallopian tube cancers are much the same as in other gynecological disorders and include vaginal bleeding or discharge, and pelvic pain. The rule of thumb is to seek quick and careful evaluation of postmenopausal vaginal bleeding. Blood tinged mucus that doesn't respond to antibiotic treatment may signify that cancer is present. Pelvic pain may be caused by trapped fluid blocking and swelling the fallopian tube.
There are two factors that make fallopian tube cancer hard to diagnose: the rarity of the disease and the fact that it's hard to see the inside of the tube. Along with the more common gynecological diagnostic tests, doctors are turning more and more to ultrasound testing. In fallopian tube cancer, ultrasound testing can help to find a hot dog-shaped mass with growths inside the center of the fluid-filled tube. The combined use of intravaginal and the usual Doppler ultrasound tests seem to hold the most promise in finding these cancers. Still, doctors feel that exploratory surgery is necessary to make a definitive diagnosis. Such surgery can help doctors to view the tubes and obtain tissue specimens.