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Fallopian Tube Cancer
|Can Fallopian Tube Cancer Be Prevented?
At this point in time there is no known way to prevent fallopian tube cancer - in fact doctors do not know how to prevent most types of cancers. That said some cancers have been linked to particular risk factors - for example lung cancer and smoking. A risk factor is something that increases a person's likelihood of developing a disease. Although the risk factor can influence this development, it does not actually cause it. The causes of cancer are multi-factorial, which means that more than one factor is usually involved. Those factors include genetics, age, environmental toxins (carcinogens), lifestyle habits, obesity, smoking, bad diet and excess alcohol. The more factors present, the higher the risk. Avoiding those risk factors, where possible can be seen as a preventative measure. As fallopian tube cancer is so rare, the risk factors are less clearly identified. Researchers suggest the following risk factors may play a role:
Fallopian tube cancer is more common in white postmenopause women between the ages of 50 and 60. According to incidences recorded in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) SEERs database, 84 percent of cases occur in women over 50, while 33 percent are aged 70 or over. This is why any vaginal bleeding, one typical symptom of the disease, after menopause should always be reported to a doctor.
Women who have not had children, or who experience a first pregnancy after 35 are slightly more at risk of fallopian tube cancer. On the other hand, women who have breast fed and used hormone contraceptives are slightly less likely to develop the disease. If a woman is of childbearing age and shows symptoms of fallopian tube cancer, a doctor will carry out a pregnancy test to rule out ectopic pregnancy (and maybe a HCG blood test to check for pregnancy hormones).
Persistent infections of the upper female reproductive tract (ovaries, fallopian tube and uterus) may increase a woman's chance of fallopian tumors. Reproductive tract infections (RTIs) occur more commonly in the lower tract (vagina, vulva and cervix). Lower RTIs can be caused by problems such as vaginitis and yeast infections (including thrush). Upper RTIs tend to be more severe and have more serious consequences. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is one such condition and is a possible risk factor for fallopian tube cancer. Upper RTIs are often the direct consequence of an untreated lower RTI, in particular those caused by sexually transmitted diseases. PID for example is often caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea. It can lead to scarring of the fallopian tubes as well as chronic abdominal pain, irregular periods and infertility. Other infections can be caused by contraceptive IUD devices. Introduction of bacteria to the normally sterile environment of the uterus by an IUD can cause serious upper RTIs (known as iatrogenic infections) which may occasionally even be life-threatening.
There is increasing evidence that women who test positive for BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations are at greater risk for fallopian tube cancer. The genetic mutations were originally only linked to ovarian and breast cancer risk factors. Typically most cancerous tumors found in the fallopian tube start in the ovaries (which means it is in fact ovarian cancer) but BRCA mutations have now been identified in 16 to 43 percent of women with primary fallopian tube cancer (which means it started in the fallopian tubes). Women who have a strong family history of either ovarian, breast or fallopian tube cancer should consider talking to a genetic counselor about genetic testing. This test is explained further in our article genetic testing for breast cancer.
Emerging data suggests that surgery to remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries in women with BRCA gene mutations may prevent both types of cancers. This surgery is known as risk-reducing bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. The procedure has major consequences for women of childbearing age because it results in premature menopause (also known as surgical menopause). A 2006 study supported by the American Medical Association investigated the effectiveness of prophylactic surgery in women who tested positive for BRCA mutations. 1828 women from the U.S., Canada, Europe and Israel participated in the study. 30 percent underwent a bilateral prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy before the study started, 27 percent after the study and 43 percent did not have the procedure. After a follow up of 3.5 years, the researchers concluded the overall risk reduction of ovarian and fallopian tube cancer was 80 percent in women with bilateral oophorectomy. They also discovered that the risk of breast cancer was higher in women who had a previous history of ovarian, fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer. This may be because the risk factors are similar, or that some part of breast cancer treatment raises the risks. The study concluded that the risk for ovarian or fallopian tube cancer following breast cancer to be 13 percent after 10 years for those with BRCA1 mutations and 7 percent for those with BRCA2 mutations.
Useful: Read about Recurrence of fallopian tube cancer.
Those with a close family history (mother, sister, and daughter) of fallopian tube cancer are at increased risk for the disease. Also if 2 or more close family members have ovarian cancer; this increases your risk of fallopian tube cancer.
One of the best ways to prevent cancer developing is to detect it in its early precancerous stage (see fallopian tube cancer staging). This is why general screening for cervix cancer by a Pap test has proven successful in reducing the incidences of the disease. Although there is no such screening available for fallopian tube cancers (or ovarian or cancer of the vagina) some hospitals do offer early detection and prevention programs. The Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Chicago) runs a clinical research program designed for women who are at increased risk for ovarian or fallopian tube cancer. All women who enter the program must do so on the referral of a physician who must agree to provide routine gynecologic care such as pelvic examinations, Pap tests and mammogram screenings. If you are accepted into the program, the first visit will take up to 3 hours. You will meet with a genetic counselor who will assess your risk based on personal and family medical history. A transvaginal ultrasound will be carried out by a technician who specializes in gynecologic ultrasonography. A gynecologist will perform a clinical breast examination, as well as pelvic and rectum exam. A blood test will check for CA 125 tumor markers. Follow up visits occur approximately every 6 months and the same tests will be repeated. Your referral doctor will be notified if tests show any abnormal results. However any testing for experimental tumor markers will not be reported until their meaning has been scientifically proven. This is to avoid any unnecessary worry to the patient. If at any time the role of those markers becomes known, the results will be made available.
Who Is Eligible To Join?
Have a mother, sister or daughter with ovarian, fallopian tube cancer or primary peritoneal cancer.
Have 2 or more family members with fallopian tube, ovarian, breast, primary peritoneal, uterine, colon or pancreatic cancer.
Have tested positive for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene mutations.
Have Lynch syndrome (HNPCC).
Have received a fallopian tube cancer diagnosis or diagnosis of another reproductive cancer.
What About The Costs?
Generally the costs for the ultrasounds, genetic counseling, CA 125 blood tests and physical examinations are charged to the patient or their health insurance company. Those who agree to other experimental tests are not usually billed for those costs.
Other Prevention Advice
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reducing your exposure to known carcinogens (cancer causing substances) can help prevent cancer. Prevention advice includes:
Quit smoking if you do smoke.
Maintain a healthy body weight for your height (BMI).
Limit your alcohol intake.
Ensure you eat a healthy diet and include cancer diet foods.
Practice safe sex.
Interesting: Read about Thermography Screening.
Compare To Other Female Cancers
• Ovarian Cancer Prevention
• Breast Cancer Prevention
• Cervical Cancer Prevention
• Vaginal Cancer Prevention
• Vulva Cancer Prevention
• Cancer Prevention