About the fallopian tubes
The fallopian tubes are small ducts that link a woman’s ovaries to her uterus that are a part of a woman’s reproductive system. Typically, every woman has two fallopian tubes, one located on each side of the uterus.
About fallopian tube cancer
- Fallopian tube cancer begins when normal cells in one or both fallopian tubes change and grow uncontrollably, forming a mass called a tumor. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor means the tumor will not spread.
- Cancer can begin in any of the different cell types that make up the fallopian tubes. The most common type is adenocarcinoma (a cancer of cells from glands). Leiomyosarcoma (a cancer of smooth muscle cells) and transitional cell carcinoma (a cancer of the cells lining the fallopian tubes) are less common.
- Fallopian tube cancer is often connected to ovarian cancer. New evidence suggests that at least some of ovarian cancer actually begins in tissue on the fringes of the fallopian tube, called fimbriae. The fimbriae are located near the ovary and cancer may go to the surface of the ovary early in the cancer process. Therefore, the term ‘ovarian cancer’ is often used to describe some cancers that begin in the fallopian tube and travel to the ovaries. More research is being done about the connection between these two types of cancer.
Fallopian Tube Cancer: Symptoms and Signs
Women with fallopian tube cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, women with fallopian tube cancer do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.
- Irregular or heavy vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause
- Occasional abdominal or pelvic pain or feeling of pressure
- Vaginal discharge, which may be clear, white, or tinged with blood
- A pelvic mass or lump
As a tumor in the fallopian tube grows, it can push against the walls of the tube and cause abdominal pain. If untreated, the cancer can spread into and through the walls of the fallopian tubes and eventually into the pelvis (lower abdomen) and stomach areas. This can cause other symptoms as well.
If you are concerned about one or more of the symptoms or signs on this list, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.
If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.
Fallopian Tube Cancer: Questions to Ask the Doctor
Talking often with the doctor is important to make informed decisions about your health care. These suggested questions are a starting point to help you learn more about your cancer care and treatment. You are also encouraged to ask additional questions that are important to you.
- What is the exact type of fallopian tube cancer that I have?
- Can you explain my pathology report (laboratory test results) to me?
- What is the stage of my cancer? What does this mean?
- What is the grade? What does this mean?
- What are my treatment options?
- What clinical trials are open to me? Where are they located, and how do I find out more about them?
- What treatment plan do you recommend? Why?
- What is the goal of each treatment? Is it to eliminate the cancer, help me feel better, or both?
- Who will be part of my health care team, and what does each member do?
- Who will be coordinating my overall treatment and follow-up care?
- What is my prognosis? What does this mean?
- What are the chances that the cancer will recur?
- What are the possible side effects of this treatment, both in the short term and the long term?
- How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?
- Could this treatment affect my sex life? If so, how and for how long?
- Could this treatment affect my ability to become pregnant? If so, should I talk with a fertility specialist before cancer treatment begins?
- If I’m worried about managing the costs related to my cancer care, who can help me with these concerns?
- Should I see a genetic counselor? Should I consider testing for mutations in genes that put me and my family at higher risk for gynecologic cancers?
- How can I keep myself as healthy as possible during treatment?
- What follow-up tests will I need, and how often will I need them?
- What support services are available to me? To my family?
- Whom should I call for questions or problems?
- Does my diagnosis mean that my close relatives have a higher risk of fallopian tube cancer?