Fallopian Tube Cancer: Signs, Symptoms and Risk Factors

Recognizing the Symptoms of Fallopian Tube Cancer

Fallopian tube cancer is a disease that affects the ducts that connect the ovaries to the uterus, which allow the transport of eggs from the ovary to the uterus. 

Symptoms of Fallopian Tube Cancer

The symptoms of fallopian tube cancer are very vague and are typical of many other gynecologic conditions. It is a very rare cancer, so in most cases, the symptoms are related to other less serious conditions, not fallopian tube cancer. The most common symptoms of fallopian tube cancer are:

  • Vaginal DischargeVaginal discharge that is white, clear, or tinged with pink (blood) can be a symptom of fallopian tube cancer. However, it is much more likely to be caused by something far less severe. If you are experiencing this type of vaginal discharge, you can expect your doctor to swab your vagina and perform a microscopic examination of the sample. Depending on when your last Pap smear was done, your doctor may want you to have one as well.
  • Abdominal or Pelvic Pain: A growing tumor in the fallopian tube can push against the walls of the tube and cause abdominal pain. Cancer can spread through the walls of the fallopian tubes and eventually into the pelvis (lower abdomen) and stomach areas if left untreated. Because fallopian tube cancer is rare and pelvic pain is common with many other conditions, this symptom does not raise immediate flags for the disease. Pelvic pain that is persistent and lasts for two weeks definitely needs to be evaluated by your doctor. If you are experiencing pelvic pain, your doctor will want to know:
    • when the pain occurs
    • what may trigger the pain for you
    • what you are taking to relieve the pain
  • Pelvic Mass: A pelvic mass that can be felt during a pelvic exam is an important symptom, but may often be related to benign conditions, like ovarian cysts. If a pelvic mass is discovered during an exam, your doctor will want to follow up with other tests, such as an ultrasound or CT scan to gather more information about the mass.
  • Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding: Abnormal vaginal bleeding can occur with fallopian tube cancer. Vaginal bleeding is considered abnormal when it occurs between periods, after sex or douching, or if you have very heavy periods. Any type of vaginal bleeding in post-menopausal women is abnormal.

Pelvic pain, discharge, and a pelvic mass are the most common symptoms present when women are diagnosed with fallopian tube cancer. However, these symptoms rarely present themselves altogether.

Post-Menopausal Women and Fallopian Tube Cancer Symptoms

Menopausal status can play a role in how symptoms are managed and in the diagnostic process of fallopian tube cancer. Post-menopausal women who are experiencing abnormal vaginal bleeding warrant a thorough and timely evaluation.

While vaginal bleeding in a post-menopausal woman does not immediately indicate fallopian tube cancer, it does signal that something is wrong and needs to be evaluated. It could be a simple side effect of hormone replacement therapy, or it could be something more serious, like cancer.

If you are post-menopausal and are experiencing vaginal bleeding, it is important to report it to your doctor.

Who Develops Fallopian Tube Cancer?

The disease is rare, and there is not a lot of definitive information about its causes and risk factors. Women who have inherited a mutated BRCA gene are at an elevated risk of developing fallopian tube cancer.

We do know that fallopian tube cancer is most commonly seen in Caucasian women who are between 50 to 60 years of age. However, though uncommon, the disease can strike minority women as well as those younger and older than the 50-60 year age bracket.

Reducing the Risk of Fallopian Tube Cancer

Early fallopian tube cancers are sometimes found when the fallopian tubes are removed as part of a pre-emptive surgery to reduce the risks of cancer for women with BRCA gene mutations. 

For women at high risk for the disease, experts recommend removing both ovaries and fallopian tubes (salpingo-oophorectomy) once the women have finished having children to help protect against ovarian and fallopian tube cancers. The recommendation to remove the fallopian tubes is made because some surgeries have actually revealed fallopian tube cancer when originally the cancers were thought to be ovarian or primary peritoneal cancers (which develops in a thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen). 

Though this operation lowers the risk, it doesn't fully eliminate it as some women with a high risk of developing ovarian cancer already have microscopic developments of cancer in their ovaries and fallopian tubes at the time of their operation. 

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Article Sources

  • American Cancer Society. Can Ovarian Cancer Be Prevented?

  • American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Fallopian Tube Cancer: Symptoms and Signs.