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Fallopian Tube Cancer - Overview

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some basic information about this disease and the parts of the body it may affect. This is the first page of Cancer.Net’s Guide to Fallopian Tube Cancer. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen. Think of that menu as a roadmap to this full guide.

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.

To continue reading this guide, use the menu on the side of your screen to select another section.  

Fallopian Tube Cancer - Statistics

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about how many people learn they have this type of cancer each year and some general survival information. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Using current statistics, fallopian tube cancer accounts for about 1% of all cancers of a woman’s reproductive system. However, as mentioned in the Overview, new scientific evidence suggests that ovarian cancer is more closely associated with fallopian tube cancer than previously thought, which makes this type of cancer more common than this statistic suggests.

It is more common for other cancers to spread to the fallopian tubes rather than for cancer to begin there. For example, the fallopian tubes are a common site of metastasis (spread) of cancers that started in the ovaries, uterus, endometrium, appendix, or colon.

If detected early, fallopian tube cancer can often be successfully treated. The five-year survival rate is the percentage of people who survive at least five years after the cancer is detected, excluding those who die from other diseases. At its earliest stage, where the cancer is only in the lining of the fallopian tube the five-year survival rate is 95%. The survival rate decreases as the cancer spreads. If cancer has spread to the walls of the fallopian tube, the five-year survival rate is about 75%; if it has spread outside of the fallopian tube, the five-year survival rate is 45%. Learn more about the staging system of fallopian tube cancer.

Cancer survival statistics should be interpreted with caution. These estimates are based on data from thousands of women with of this type of cancer in the United States each year, but the actual risk for a particular individual may differ. It is not possible to tell a woman how long she will live with fallopian tube cancer. Because the survival statistics are measured in five-year intervals, they may not represent advances made in the treatment or diagnosis of this cancer. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Source: Oncolink, The University of Pennsylvania.

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Fallopian Tube Cancer - Risk Factors and Prevention

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing this type of cancer. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer. Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. However, knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.

Because fallopian tube cancer is uncommon, not much is known about the risk factors. However, the following factors may raise a woman’s risk of developing fallopian tube cancer:

Genetic mutations. Recent studies have suggested that a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, which is linked to breast and ovarian cancer, may also increase the risk of developing fallopian tube cancer. Learn more about BRCA gene mutations and hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Age. Fallopian tube cancer occurs mostly in postmenopausal women in their 50s and 60s. However, fallopian tube cancer can begin in women as early as 40, particularly in those who have BRCA1.

Family history. A family history of fallopian tube cancer can increase a woman’s risk of developing this cancer.

Prevention

Research continues to look into what factors cause this type of cancer and what people can do to lower their personal risk. There is no proven way to completely prevent this disease, but there may be steps you can take to lower your cancer risk. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about your personal risk of developing this type of cancer.

Some women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer may consider a risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy. This is a preventive surgery to remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries, even if cancer is not diagnosed. This operation will significantly reduce, but not eliminate, the risk that a woman will develop ovarian or fallopian tube cancer. Women considering this surgery should talk with their doctor and a genetic counselor to fully understand the risks and side effects of this surgery compared with the risk of developing these types of cancer.

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Fallopian Tube Cancer - Symptoms and Signs

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

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.

The next section helps explain what tests and scans may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Diagnosis, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.

Fallopian Tube Cancer - Diagnosis

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will find a list of the common tests, procedures, and scans that doctors can use to find out what’s wrong and identify the cause of the problem. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Doctors use many tests to diagnose cancer and find out if it has spread to another part of the body, called metastasis. 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 spread. This list describes options for diagnosing this type of cancer, and not all tests listed will be used for every woman. Your doctor may consider these factors when choosing a diagnostic test:

  • Age and medical condition
  • Type of cancer suspected
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Previous test results

In addition to a physical examination, the following tests may be used to diagnose fallopian tube cancer:

Pelvic examination. The doctor feels the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum to check for any unusual changes. A Pap test, often done with a pelvic exam, is used to find and diagnose cervical cancer, not fallopian tube cancer.

Ultrasound. An ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of the internal organs. In a transvaginal ultrasound, an ultrasound wand is inserted into the vagina and aimed at the uterus to obtain the pictures.

Blood tests/CA-125 assay. There is a blood test that measures a substance called CA-125, a tumor marker, which may be found in higher levels in women with fallopian tube cancer. Woman younger than 50 with conditions such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and uterine fibroids may also have an increased CA-125 level. This test is more accurate in postmenopausal women.

Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan. A CT scan creates a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body with an x-ray machine. A computer then combines these images into a detailed, cross-sectional view that shows any abnormalities or tumors. A CT scan can also be used to measure the tumor’s size. Sometimes, a special dye called a contrast medium is given before the scan to provide better detail on the image. This dye can be injected into a patient’s vein or given as a pill to swallow.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses magnetic fields, not x-rays, to produce detailed images of the body. MRI can also be used to measure the tumor’s size. A special dye called a contrast medium is given before the scan to create a clearer picture. This dye can be injected into a patient’s vein or given as a pill to swallow.

Genetic testing.  As explained in Risk Factors, mutations to the BRCA1 gene may increase the risk of developing fallopian tube cancer. Genetic specialists can test your genes as part of the diagnosis of fallopian tube cancer and determine the likely course of the disease. Learn more about genetic testing in another section of Cancer.Net.

After diagnostic tests are done, your doctor will review all of the results with you. If the diagnosis is cancer, these results also help the doctor describe the cancer; this is called staging.

The next section helps explain the different stages for this type of cancer. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Stages, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.

Fallopian Tube Cancer - Stages and Grades

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will learn about how doctors describe a cancer’s growth or spread. This is called the stage. In addition, you can read about how doctors evaluate and compare cancer cells to normal cells, called the grade. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Staging is a way of describing where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body. Doctors use diagnostic tests to find out the cancer's stage, so staging may not be complete until all of the tests are finished. Knowing the stage helps the doctor to decide what kind of treatment is best and can help predict a patient's prognosis, which is the chance of recovery. There are different stage descriptions for different types of cancer.

One tool that doctors use to describe the stage is the TNM system. TNM is an abbreviation for tumor (T), node (N), and metastasis (M). Doctors look at these three factors to determine the stage of cancer:

  • How large is the primary tumor and where is it located? (Tumor, T)
  • Has the tumor spread to the lymph nodes? (Node, N)
  • Has the cancer metastasized to other parts of the body? (Metastasis, M)

The results are combined to determine the stage of cancer for each person. There are five stages: stage 0 (zero) and stages I through IV (one through four). The stage provides a common way of describing the cancer, so doctors can work together to plan the best treatments.

For this type of cancer, doctors figure out the stage using both surgical and non-surgical methods, including clinical and pathological tests (see more in Diagnosis). Here are more details on each part of the TNM system for fallopian cancer:

Tumor. Using the TNM system, the "T" plus a letter or number (0 to 4) is used to describe the size and location of the tumor. Some stages are also divided into smaller groups that help describe the tumor in even more detail. This helps the doctor develop the best treatment plan for each individual. Specific tumor stage information is listed below:

TX: The primary tumor cannot be evaluated.

T0: There is no tumor.

Tis: The tumor is carcinoma in situ (early-stage cancer that has not spread to nearby tissue).

T1: The tumor is limited to the fallopian tube(s).

T1a: The tumor is contained within one fallopian tube. No part of the tumor has spread to the surface of the tube, and no cancer cells are found in abdominal fluid.

T1b: An encapsulated (self-contained) tumor is in both fallopian tubes, but neither tumor is touching a tube surface. No cancer cells are found in abdominal fluid.

T1c: The tumor is in one or both fallopian tubes, but the capsule has ruptured (burst) or the tumor has spread to the tube surface, or cancer cells are found in the abdominal fluid.

T2: The tumor involves one or both fallopian tubes and has spread to the pelvis.

T2a: Tumor extensions (areas of tumor growth also called implants) are found on the uterus and/or ovaries but no cancer cells are found in the abdominal fluid.

T2b: There is cancer in other pelvic tissue, but no cancer cells are found in the abdominal fluid.

T2c: Tumor extensions in the pelvis are present, such as in T2a or T2b, but cancer cells are also in the abdominal fluid.

T3: The tumor involves one or both fallopian tubes and has spread microscopically into the abdominal area outside the pelvis.

T3a: Microscopic metastasis is present in the peritoneal area (the area around the organs in the abdomen) beyond the pelvis.

T3b: Metastasis measuring 2 centimeters (cm; a little smaller than 1 inch) or smaller is present outside the pelvis.

T3c: Metastasis larger than 2 cm is present in areas outside the pelvis.

Nodes. The “N” in the TNM staging system stands for lymph nodes, the tiny, bean-shaped organs that help fight infection. Lymph nodes near the pelvis are called regional lymph nodes. Lymph nodes in other parts of the body are called distant lymph nodes.

NX: The regional lymph nodes cannot be evaluated.

N0: There is no cancer in the regional lymph nodes.

N1: The cancer has spread to the pelvic lymph nodes.

Metastasis. The “M” in the TNM system indicates whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

MX: Distant metastasis cannot be evaluated.

M0: There is no cancer beyond the peritoneal area.

M1: The cancer has spread beyond the peritoneal area.

Cancer stage grouping

Doctors assign the stage of the cancer by combining the T, N, and M classifications.

Stage 0: Refers to carcinoma in situ (Tis, N0, M0).

Stage I: Cancer is located only in the fallopian tubes (T1, N0, M0).

Stage IA: An encapsulated tumor is located in only one fallopian tube, with no spread to pelvic lymph nodes or other parts of the body (T1a, N0, M0).

Stage IB: An encapsulated tumor is in both fallopian tubes, with no spread to pelvic nodes or other parts of the body (T1b, N0, M0).

Stage IC: Cancer is in one or both fallopian tubes with either a ruptured capsule or tumor spread to the ovarian surface, or cancer cells are in the abdominal fluid (T1c, N0, M0).

Stage II: Cancer is in one or both fallopian tubes and has grown into the pelvis but not elsewhere (T2, N0, M0).

Stage IIA: Cancer has spread to the uterus or ovaries, but not to the pelvic lymph nodes or distant organs (T2a, N0, M0).

Stage IIB: Cancer has spread to other pelvic tissue, but not to lymph nodes or distant organs (T2b, N0, M0).

Stage IIC: Cancer has spread into the pelvic area and is shedding cancer cells into abdominal fluid (T2c, N0, M0).

Stage III: Cancer is in one or both fallopian tubes and the pelvis and has spread into the peritoneum but not to distant parts of the body (T3, N0, M0).

Stage IIIA: Cancer has spread microscopically throughout the pelvis (T3a, N0, M0).

Stage IIIB: Cancer has spread into the peritoneal area with implants that are 2 cm or smaller (T3b, N0, M0).

Stage IIIC: Describes any cancer that has spread into the peritoneal area in implants larger than 2 cm (T3c, N0, M0), or the tumor has spread to lymph nodes and/or the pelvis, but not to other parts of the body (any T, N1, M0).

Stage IV: Describes any cancer that has spread to distant organs (any T, any N, M1).

Recurrent: Recurrent cancer is cancer that has come back after treatment. If there is a recurrence, the cancer may need to be staged again (called re-staging) using the system above.

Grade

Histologic grade (G). Doctors may also assign a grade to the disease. A tumor’s grade uses the letter “G” and a number. It describes how closely the cancer cells resemble normal tissue under a microscope. Cells that look like healthy cells are low grade, and those that look like cancer cells are high grade. In general, the lower the grade, the better the prognosis.

GX: The tumor grade cannot be identified.

G1: Describes cells that look more like normal tissue cells (well differentiated).

G2: The cells are somewhat different (moderately differentiated).

G3: The tumor cells barely resemble normal cells (poorly differentiated).

G4: The cells do not look like normal cells (undifferentiated).

Used with permission of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC), Chicago, Illinois. The original source for this material is the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual, Seventh Edition (2010) published by Springer-Verlag New York, www.cancerstaging.net.

Information about the cancer’s stage will help the doctor recommend a treatment plan.  The next section helps explain the treatment options for this type of cancer. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Treatment Options, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.  

Fallopian Tube Cancer - Treatment Options

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will learn about the different ways doctors use to treat women with this type of cancer. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

This section outlines treatments that are the standard of care (best proven treatments available) for this specific type of cancer. When making treatment plan decisions, patients are also encouraged to consider clinical trials as an option. A clinical trial is a research study to test a new approach to treatment to evaluate whether it is safe, effective, and possibly better than the standard treatment. Clinical trials may test such approaches as a new drug, a new combination of standard treatments, or new doses of current therapies. Your doctor can help you review all treatment options. For more information, see the Clinical Trials and Latest Research sections.

Treatment overview

In cancer care, different types of doctors often work together to create a patient’s overall treatment plan that combines different types of treatments. This is called a multidisciplinary team. For fallopian tube cancer, the team should include a gynecologic oncologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer in a woman’s reproductive system.

Descriptions of the most common treatment options for fallopian tube cancer are listed below. Treatment for fallopian tube cancer often is the same as treatment for ovarian cancer. Treatment options and recommendations depend on several factors, including the type, stage, and grade of the cancer, possible side effects, and the woman’s preferences and overall health. Take time to learn about all of your treatment options and be sure to ask questions about things that are unclear. Also, talk about the goals of each treatment with your doctor and what you can expect while receiving the treatment. Learn more about making treatment decisions.

Your care plan may also include treatment for symptoms and side effects, an important part of cancer care. Women with fallopian tube cancer may have concerns about if or how their treatment may affect their sexual function and fertility, and these topics should be discussed with the health care team before, during, and after cancer treatment. If both ovaries are affected, a woman can no longer become pregnant. The loss of both ovaries also eliminates the body’s source of sex hormones, resulting in premature menopause. This means that the patient is likely to experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Talk with your doctor about possible side effects related to your sexual and reproductive health.

Surgery

Surgery is the removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue during an operation. A surgical oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer using surgery. Learn more about cancer surgery

The stage of the tumor determines the type of surgery used. Early-stage fallopian tube cancer, when the tumor is limited to the fallopian tubes, is treated by a surgery called a salpingo-oophorectomy. This means the surgical removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries. If the cancer has spread, the surgeon may remove the uterus in a surgery called a hysterectomy, as well as other structures in the pelvis, including nearby lymph nodes, to test for the presence of cancer cells.

Side effects depend on the type of surgery, and women are encouraged to talk with the surgeon beforehand about what to expect. Learn more coping with gynecologic surgery

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells, usually by stopping the cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide. Chemotherapy is given by a medical oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with medication. In addition, chemotherapy may also be given by a gynecologic oncologist.

Systemic chemotherapy is delivered through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells throughout the body. Common ways to give chemotherapy include an intravenous (IV) tube placed into a vein using a needle or in some cases directly into the abdomen, called intraperitoneally.  A chemotherapy regimen (schedule) usually consists of a specific number of cycles given over a set period of time. A patient may receive one drug at a time or combinations of different drugs at the same time. Chemotherapy is usually given after surgery for fallopian tube cancer for a specific number of cycles. The most common types of chemotherapy to treat fallopian tube cancer are carboplatin (Paraplat, Paraplatin) and paclitaxel (Taxol).

The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the individual and the dose used, but they can include fatigue, risk of infection, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. These side effects usually go away once treatment is finished.

Learn more about chemotherapy and preparing for treatment. The medications used to treat cancer are continually being evaluated. Talking with your doctor is often the best way to learn about the medications prescribed for you, their purpose, and their potential side effects or interactions with other medications. Learn more about your prescriptions by using searchable drug databases.

Maintenance therapy

Maintenance therapy is the ongoing use of chemotherapy or another treatment to help lower the risk of recurrence after the original disease has disappeared following the first treatment.  Maintenance therapy in this setting with standard chemotherapy drugs has not generally been shown to be helpful, but research using newer medications is underway.  

Maintenance therapy also may be used for patients with advanced cancer to help keep it from growing and spreading farther. In either situation, this type of treatment may be given for a long period of time.    

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is generally not used as a first treatment for fallopian tube or ovarian cancer. Occasionally, it can be used for treating recurrent or late-stage fallopian tube cancer, or in trying to shrink the size of the tumor before surgery. Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells. A doctor who specializes in giving radiation therapy to treat cancer is called a radiation oncologist. The most common type of radiation treatment is called external-beam radiation therapy, which is radiation given from a machine outside the body.

A radiation therapy regimen (schedule) usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period of time.

Side effects from radiation therapy may include fatigue, mild skin reactions, upset stomach, and loose bowel movements. Sometimes, doctors advise their patients not to have sexual intercourse during radiation therapy. Women may restart normal sexual activity within a few weeks after treatment if they feel ready. Most side effects go away soon after treatment is finished.

Learn more about radiation therapy.  For more information on radiation therapy for gynecologic cancers, see the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's pamphlet, Radiation Therapy for Gynecologic Cancers.

Getting care for symptoms and side effects

Cancer and its treatment often cause side effects. In addition to treatment to slow, stop, or eliminate the cancer, an important part of cancer care is relieving a person’s symptoms and side effects. This approach is called palliative or supportive care, and it includes supporting the patient with her physical, emotional, and social needs.

Palliative care can help a person at any stage of illness. People often receive treatment for the cancer and treatment to ease side effects at the same time. In fact, patients who receive both often have less severe symptoms, better quality of life, and report they are more satisfied with treatment.

Palliative treatments vary widely and often include medication, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, and other therapies. You may also receive palliative treatments similar to those meant to eliminate the cancer, such as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy. Talk with your doctor about the goals of each treatment in the treatment plan.

Before treatment begins, talk with your health care team about the possible side effects of your specific treatment plan and supportive care options. And during and after treatment, be sure to tell your doctor or another health care team member if you are experiencing a problem so it is addressed as quickly as possible. Learn more about palliative care.

Metastatic fallopian tube cancer

If cancer has spread to another location in the body, it is called metastatic cancer. Women with this diagnosis are encouraged to talk with doctors who are experienced in treating this stage of cancer, because there can be different opinions about the best treatment plan.

Learn more about seeking a second opinion before starting treatment, so you are comfortable with the treatment plan chosen. This discussion may include clinical trials. Supportive care to help relieve symptoms and side effects will be an important part of the treatment plan.

For most patients, a diagnosis of metastatic cancer is very stressful and, at times, difficult to bear. Patients and their families are encouraged to talk about the way they are feeling with doctors, nurses, social workers, or other members of the health care team. It may also be helpful to talk with other patients, including through a support group.

Remission and the chance of recurrence

A remission is when cancer cannot be detected in the body and there are no symptoms. This may also be called “no evidence of disease” or NED. 

A remission can be temporary or permanent. This uncertainty leads to many survivors feeling worried or anxious that the cancer will come back. While many remissions are permanent, it’s important to talk with your doctor about the possibility of the cancer returning. Understanding the risk of recurrence and the treatment options may help you feel more prepared if the cancer does return. Learn more about coping with the fear of recurrence

If the cancer does return after the original treatment, it is called recurrent cancer. It may come back in the same place (called a local recurrence), nearby (regional recurrence), or in another place (distant recurrence).

When this occurs, a cycle of testing will begin again to learn as much as possible about the recurrence, including whether the cancer’s stage has changed. After testing is done, you and your doctor will talk about your treatment options. Often the treatment plan will include the therapies described above, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, but they may be used in a different combination or given at a different pace. Your doctor may also suggest clinical trials that are studying new ways to treat this type of recurrent cancer. A type of treatment called targeted therapy may be an option. Learn more about targeted therapy in the Latest Research section.

People with recurrent cancer often experience emotions such as disbelief or fear. Patients are encouraged to talk with their health care team about these feelings and ask about support services to help them cope. Learn more about dealing with cancer recurrence.

If treatment fails

Recovery from cancer is not always possible. If treatment is not successful, the disease may be called advanced or terminal cancer.

This diagnosis is stressful, and this is difficult to discuss for many people. However, it is important to have open and honest conversations with your doctor and health care team to express your feelings, preferences, and concerns. The health care team is there to help, and many team members have special skills, experience, and knowledge to support patients and their families. Making sure a person is physically comfortable and free from pain is extremely important.

Patients who have advanced cancer and who are expected to live less than six months may want to consider a type of palliative care called hospice care. Hospice care is designed to provide the best possible quality of life for people who are near the end of life. You and your family are encouraged to think about where you would be most comfortable: at home, in the hospital, or in a hospice environment. Nursing care and special equipment can make staying at home a workable alternative for many families. Learn more about advanced cancer care planning.

After the death of a loved one, many people need support to help them cope with the loss. Learn more about grief and loss.

The next section helps explain clinical trials, which are research studies. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select About Clinical Trials, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.  

Fallopian Tube Cancer - About Clinical Trials

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will learn more about clinical trials, which are the main way that new medical approaches are tested to see how well they work. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Doctors and scientists are always looking for better ways to treat patients with fallopian tube cancer. To make scientific advances, doctors create research studies involving volunteers, called clinical trials.

Many clinical trials are focused on new treatments, evaluating whether a new treatment is safe, effective, and possibly better than the current (standard) treatment. These types of studies evaluate new drugs, different combinations of existing treatments, new approaches to radiation therapy or surgery, and new methods of treatment. Patients who participate in clinical trials are often among the first to receive new treatments before they are widely available. However, there is no guarantee that the new treatment will be safe, effective, or better than a standard treatment.

There are also clinical trials that study new ways to ease symptoms and side effects during treatment and manage the late effects that may occur after treatment. Talk with your doctor about clinical trials regarding side effects. In addition, there are ongoing studies about ways to prevent the disease.

Patients decide to participate in clinical trials for many reasons. For some patients, a clinical trial is the best treatment option available. Because standard treatments are not perfect, women are often willing to face the added uncertainty of a clinical trial in the hope of a better result. Other women volunteer for clinical trials because they know that these studies are the only way to make progress in treating fallopian tube cancer. Even if they do not benefit directly from the clinical trial, their participation may benefit future patients with fallopian tube cancer.

Sometimes people have concerns that, by participating in a clinical trial, they may receive no treatment by being given a placebo or a “sugar pill.” The use of placebos in cancer clinical trials is rare. When a placebo is used in a study, it is done with the full knowledge of the participants. Find out more about placebos in cancer clinical trials.

To join a clinical trial, patients must participate in a process known as informed consent. During informed consent, the doctor should list all of the patient’s options so that the person understands how the new treatment differs from the standard treatment. The doctor must also list all of the risks of the new treatment, which may or may not be different from the risks of standard treatment. Finally, the doctor must explain what will be required of each patient in order to participate in the clinical trial, including the number of doctor visits, tests, and the schedule of treatment.

Because fallopian tube cancer is uncommon, specific studies for this cancer are uncommon, but most clinical trials on ovarian cancer are open to women with fallopian tube cancer. For specific topics being studied, learn more in the Latest Research section.

Patients who participate in a clinical trial may stop participating at any time for any personal or medical reason. This may include that the new treatment is not working or there are serious side effects. Clinical trials are also closely monitored by experts who watch for any problems with each study. It is important that patients participating in a clinical trial talk with their doctor and researchers about who will be providing their treatment and care during the clinical trial, after the clinical trial ends, and/or if the patient chooses to leave the clinical trial before it ends. 

Cancer.Net offers a lot of information about cancer clinical trials in other areas of the website, including a complete section on clinical trials and places to search for clinical trials for a specific type of cancer.

The next section helps explain the areas of research going on today about this type of cancer. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Latest Research, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.

Fallopian Tube Cancer - Latest Research

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about this type of cancer and how to treat it. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Doctors are working to learn more about fallopian tube cancer, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.

New treatments. Researchers continue to look for better treatments, including different combinations of the treatment options (surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy) described in Treatment Options.

Because fallopian tube cancer is uncommon, fallopian tube cancer-specific clinical trials may be hard to find. However, because it is similar to ovarian cancer, researchers are trying to determine if it can be treated similarly. Therefore, most clinical trials include patients with either ovarian or fallopian tube cancer.

Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting damage to healthy cells.

Recent studies show that not all tumors have the same targets. Many research studies are taking place now to find out more about specific molecular targets and new treatments directed at them.

In several recent studies, adding the targeted therapy drug bevacizumab (Avastin) to chemotherapy and keeping patients on the drug after chemotherapy ends modestly increased the amount of time it takes for later-stage fallopian tube cancer and other cancers of a woman’s reproductive system to grow and spread. There were side effects such as high blood pressure, and damage to the intestines in some patients. Talk with your doctor about whether adding bevacizumab is a reasonable option for you.

In addition, ongoing research efforts are evaluating whether adding a class of drugs known as the PARP inhibitors (particularly in patients with the BRCA mutation) is helpful. Finally, clinical trials are underway which are evaluating drugs such as ipilimumab (Yervoy)  or PD-1 inhibitors that act by “removing the brakes” from the immune system and have been shown to help in early trials in a variety of cancer types. These and other clinical trials are available and can be found by searching the clinical trials links identified below or talking with your doctor.

Supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of gynecologic cancers, including fallopian tube cancer, to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

Looking for More About Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding fallopian tube cancer, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

The next section addresses how to cope with the symptoms of the disease or the side effects of its treatment. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Coping with Side Effects, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.

Fallopian Tube Cancer - Coping with Side Effects

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about steps to take to help cope with physical, social, and emotional side effects. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Fear of treatment side effects is common after a diagnosis of cancer, but it may help to know that preventing and controlling side effects is a major focus of your health care team. This is called palliative or supportive care, and it is an important part of the overall treatment plan, regardless of the stage of disease.

Common side effects from each treatment option for fallopian tube cancer are described in detail within the Treatment Options section. Learn more about the most common side effects of cancer and different treatments, along with ways to prevent or control them. Side effects depend on a variety of factors, including the cancer’s stage, the length and dosage of treatment(s), and your overall health.

Before treatment begins, talk with your doctor about possible side effects of each type of treatment you will be receiving. Ask which side effects are most likely to happen, when they are likely to occur, and what can be done to prevent or relieve them. And, ask about the level of caregiving you may need during treatment and recovery, as family members and friends often play an important role in the care of a person with fallopian tube cancer. Learn more about caregiving.

In addition to physical side effects, there may be emotional and social effects as well. Women and their families are encouraged to share their feelings with a member of their health care team who can help with coping strategies, including concerns about managing the cost of your cancer care

During and after treatment, be sure to tell the health care team about the side effects you experience, even if you feel they are not serious. Sometimes, side effects can last beyond the treatment period, called a long-term side effect. A side effect that occurs months or years after treatment is called a late effect. Treatment of both types of effects is an important part of survivorship care. Learn more by reading the After Treatment section or talking with your doctor.

The next section helps explain medical tests and check-ups needed after finishing cancer treatment. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select After Treatment, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.  

Fallopian Tube Cancer - After Treatment

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about your medical care after cancer treatment is finished and why this follow-up care is important. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

After treatment for fallopian tube cancer ends, talk with your doctor about developing a follow-up care plan. This plan may include regular physical examinations and/or medical tests to monitor your recovery for the coming months and years.

Follow-up care is very important for women who have finished fallopian tube cancer treatment. Although there are no specific guidelines for follow-up care after treatment for fallopian tube cancer, your plan may include regular x-rays, CT scans, ultrasound studies, and/or MRI scans. Tell your doctor about any new symptoms or problems. ASCO also offers cancer treatment summary forms to help keep track of the cancer treatment you received and develop a survivorship care plan once treatment is completed.

Women recovering from fallopian tube cancer are encouraged to follow established guidelines for good health, such as maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating a balanced diet, and having recommended cancer screening tests. Your doctor may recommend periodic testing, such as blood tests for tumor markers, physical examinations, and imaging scans in some circumstances. Talk with your doctor to develop a plan that is best for your needs. Moderate physical activity can help rebuild your strength and energy level. Your doctor can help you create an appropriate exercise plan based upon your needs, physical abilities, and fitness level. Learn more about the next steps to take in survivorship, including making positive lifestyle changes.

The next section offers a list of questions you may want to ask. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Questions to Ask the Doctor, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.  

Fallopian Tube Cancer - Questions to Ask the Doctor

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some questions to ask your doctor or other members of your health care team, to help you better understand your diagnosis, treatment plan, and overall care. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

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. You may want to print this list and bring it to your next appointment, or download Cancer.Net’s free mobile app for an e-list and other interactive tools to manage your care.

  • 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?

The next section offers some more resources that may be helpful to you. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Additional Resources, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.

Fallopian Tube Cancer - Additional Resources

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2013

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some helpful links to other areas of Cancer.Net that provide information about cancer care and treatment. To go back and review other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Cancer.Net includes many other sections about the medical and emotional aspects of cancer, both for the person diagnosed and their family members and friends. This website is meant to be a resource for you and your loved ones from the time of diagnosis, through treatment, and beyond. Here are a few sections that may get you started in exploring the rest of Cancer.Net:

This is the end of Cancer.Net’s Guide to Fallopian Tube Cancer. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select another section to continue reading this guide.