The first step in making a diagnosis is a pelvic examination, in which the physician examines the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and vagina. It is during this examination that the pelvic mass or lump may be discovered. However, the presence of this mass is not enough to make a diagnosis of fallopian tube cancer.
The physician may use several tests to make the diagnosis. Tests for fallopian tube cancer may include:
Ultrasound of the pelvis: High-frequency sound waves are used to create a pattern of echoes, called a sonogram, in which images of healthy tissues, cysts and tumors can be differentiated.
Computed tomography (CT) scan: A computer linked to an X-raymachine takes a series of detailed images of areas inside the body. Sometimes a contrast dye is injected or swallowed to make organs or tissues show up more clearly.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Magnetic fields, rather than X-rays, produce detailed images of the body.
Surgical biopsy: The only way to confirm a diagnosis of fallopian tube cancer is for a pathologist to look at the fallopian tube tissue. A sample of tissue is usually obtained during surgery.
CA125 test: This blood test checks levels of CA125, a protein known as a tumor marker for gynecological diseases. About 85% of women with such diseases have increased levels of CA125. An abnormally high reading adds support to the diagnosis, but on its own does not prove that a woman has this cancer.
Staging is the process used to determine if, where and to what extent the cancer has spread, and if it is affecting the function of other organs in the body. The Federation Internationale de Gynecologie et d’Obstetrique (FIGO) and the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) have designated staging for fallopian tube cancers as follows:
Stage I: The tumor is limited to one or both fallopian tubes.
Stage II: The tumor involves one or both tubes and has spread to the pelvic area and/or has metastasized to the uterus, ovary or other pelvic tissues.
Stage III: The tumor involves one or both tubes and the pelvis, and has spread to the abdominal cavity and/or regional lymph nodes.
Stage IV: The cancer has spread to the lung, liver or other distant organs.