Tubal Cancer

The fallopian tubes allow the egg to pass from the ovaries to the uterus and are part of a woman’s reproductive cycle. Cancer cells growing in the fallopian tubes are called tubal cancer. This is the rarest of the gynecological cancers. In most cases, cancer affects the cells that line the inside of the tubes. This form of tubal cancer is called papillary serous adenocarcinomas. Rarer forms of tubal cancer affect the muscle of the tube itself and are called leiomyosarcomas or sarcomas.

Causes of Tubal Cancer

There is no single cause identified for developing fallopian tube cancer. Because it is a rare cancer, it is even difficult to clearly define risk factors. Some of the most frequently observed similarities between women with tubal cancer are:

  • Age – usually seen in woman between 60 and 64 years of age, but it is also sometimes seen in woman in their early to mid 80s.
  • Race – it is more common for Caucasian women to get tubal cancer
  • History of chronic infection or inflammation of the fallopian tubes

Symptoms of Tubal Cancer

The most frequently seen symptom of tubal cancer are:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain

Diagnosing Tubal Cancer

Diagnosing tubal cancer is difficult in part due to its rarity and in part because of the difficulty of visualizing the interior of the narrow fallopian tubes.

The following tests may be used to confirm a diagnosis of fallopian tube cancer:

  • Pelvic examination – pelvic masses are the most commonly detected sign of tubal cancer
  • Pap smear – this test is helpful in only about 40 to 60% of cases
  • Dilation and curettage (D and C) to obtain cell samples from within the uterus
  • Doppler Ultrasound – can detect masses within the tube

 In most cases, surgery is required to obtain tissue samples and examine the tubes closely.

Treating Tubal Cancer

Treatment options for tubal cancer depend on the size, location, and stage of the disease.

Because diagnosis generally requires surgery, treatment usually involves removal of cancerous organs along with the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. Surgical treatment options include:

  • Hysterectomy – removal of the uterus
  • Bilateral salpingoo-ophorectomy – removal of both ovaries and falopina tubes
  • Omentectomy – removal of connective tissue folds in the abdomen
  • Lymphadenectomy – removal of pelvic lymph nodes

Along with surgical treatment, radiation treatment and chemotherapy may be recommended, depending on the extent of the disease. Fallopian tube cancer is responsive to some chemotherapy agents.