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 the United States.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.
Sign and Symptoms
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.
Because fallopian tube cancer is so rare, and its symptoms can resemble other problems, it can be difficult to diagnose. Additionally, in some cases, women don’t learn they have fallopian tube cancer until a tube has been removed surgically during an operation to treat another illness or problem.
However, there are several tests that may be performed in order to make a definite diagnosis of the condition. First your doctor will start by asking about any symptoms you may be experiencing, as well as reviewing your medical history and conducting a thorough physical exam. Other tests that may be performed include:
Doctors use many tests to diagnose cancer and determine if it has metastasized. Some tests may also determine which treatments may be the most effective. For most types of cancer, a biopsy is the only way to make a definitive diagnosis of cancer. If a biopsy is not possible, the doctor may suggest other tests that will help make a diagnosis.
Imaging tests may be used to find out whether the cancer has metastasized. Your doctor may consider these factors when choosing a diagnostic test:
• Age and medical condition
• The type of cancer suspected
• Severity of symptoms
• Previous test results
In addition to a physical examination, the following tests may be used to diagnose fallopian tube cancer:
• Pelvic Exam — This test involves feeling the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder and rectum to find any abnormality in their shape or size.
• CA125 Test — This is a blood test that checks levels of a blood protein known as CA125, which is a tumor marker for gynecological diseases such as fallopian tube cancer. An estimated 85 percent of women with gynecological disease have increased levels of CA125.
• Biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope. Other tests can suggest that cancer is present, but only a biopsy can make a definite diagnosis. The sample removed from the biopsy is analyzed by a pathologist (a doctor who specializes in interpreting laboratory tests and evaluating cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose disease).