Fallopian tube cancer develops in the tubes that lead from the ovaries to the uterus.
In the United States, fewer than 1% of gynecologic cancers are fallopian tube cancers. Most often, cancer that affects the fallopian tubes has spread from the ovaries rather than started in the fallopian tubes. Cancer that starts in the fallopian tubes usually affects women aged 50 to 60. It is more likely to develop in women who have had the following:
More than 95% of fallopian tube cancers are adenocarcinomas, which develop from gland cells. A few are sarcomas, which develop from connective tissue. Fallopian tube cancer spreads in much the same way as ovarian cancer: usually directly to the surrounding area or through the lymphatic system, eventually appearing in distant parts of the body.
Symptoms include vague abdominal discomfort, bloating, and pain in the pelvic area or abdomen. Some women have a watery or blood-tinged discharge from the vagina. When cancer is advanced, the abdominal cavity may fill with fluid (a condition called ascites), and women may feel a large mass in the pelvis.
Fallopian tube cancer is seldom diagnosed early. Occasionally, it is diagnosed early when a mass or other abnormality is detected during a routine pelvic examination or an imaging test done for another reason. Usually, the cancer is not diagnosed until it is advanced, when it is obvious because a large mass or severe ascites is present.
If cancer is suspected, computed tomography (CT) is usually done. If the results suggest cancer, surgery is done to confirm the diagnosis, determine the extent of spread, and remove as much of the cancer as possible.
Prognosis and Treatment
The prognosis is similar to that for women who have ovarian cancer.
Treatment almost always consists of removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) and removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes (salpingo-oophorectomy), adjacent lymph nodes, and surrounding tissues. Chemotherapy (as for ovarian cancer) is usually necessary after surgery. The most commonly used chemotherapy drugs are carboplatin and paclitaxel.
For some cancers, radiation therapy is useful. For cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, removing as much of the cancer as possible improves the prognosis.
Last full review/revision November 2008 by David M. Gershenson, MD; Pedro T. Ramirez, MD