Fallopian Tube Cancer
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 along abnormal patterns, tumors may form.
Another type of cancer that can develop from the cells lining the fallopian tubes is called transitional cell carcinoma. Rarely, tumors can also take form within the smooth muscles of the fallopian tubes and these tumors are known as sarcomas.
Of all the cancers that can strike at a woman's reproductive organs, fallopian tube cancer is the rarest of the rare, accounting for only 1% of all female cancers. In a single year, only an approximate 3.6 in one million women develop fallopian tube cancer. The cancer targets women from the ages of 60 to 64, though women have been known to develop this disease as late as in their mid-80's. White women tend to get more fallopian tube cancer than do women of other races, though no cause has been established for this fact.
Part of the reason we know so little about the risk factors and causes of this type of cancer is that it is so very rare. Some researchers have posited that a chronic state of infection of these delicate tubes may lead to cancer, but there is as yet, no proof for this hypothesis.
The symptoms of this cancer aren't much different than those of the other gynecologic cancers. Discharge, pelvic pain, and vaginal bleeding, are often the only outward sign that something is amiss. For this reason, women should be quick to seek an evaluation of any of these symptoms, in particular when vaginal bleeding occurs after menopause.
One sign that vaginal bleeding signifies something more than infection is found in bloody mucus that doesn't resolve with antibiotic treatment. Pelvic pain might be the result of trapped fluid that causes obstruction and swelling in the fallopian tubes.
In addition to the fact that fallopian tube cancer is so rare, the cancer is difficult to diagnose because it's so hard to see the inside of the narrow fallopian tubes.
These days, doctors are using more ultrasound testing in their arsenal of diagnostic gynecological tests. Ultrasound scans may be the very thing to find a frankfurter-shaped tumor taking up space in a tube filled with fluid. Using both Doppler and intravaginal ultrasound technology seems to be the best way of identifying these cancers as soon as possible.
But some doctors still believe that exploratory surgery is the only way to know for sure that a woman has fallopian tube cancer. This type of surgery allows the doctor not just to see the tubes but also allows them to take tissue samples for biopsy.