Fallopian Tube Cancer Caused By Talcum Powder
Fallopian Tube Cancer: The Rare, Overlooked Gynecological Cancer
It is very rare to receive a diagnosis of fallopian tube cancer. It is so rare that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on gynecological cancers explains ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer, but does not mention fallopian tube cancer. The National Cancer Institute refers to fallopian tube cancer in a discussion that is about ovarian cancer.
The University of California at San Francisco Medical Center says approximately 300 to 400 women are diagnosed with fallopian tube cancer annually in the United States. About 1,500 to 2,000 cases of fallopian tube cancer have been reported worldwide. Fallopian tube cancer, or tubal cancer, accounts for only 1 to 2 percent of all gynecologic cancers.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with fallopian tube cancer, it may be just a matter of bad luck. Or it may be a result of using talcum powder products in the genital area. More than 20 studies conducted over 40 years have indicated an increased risk of gynecological cancer among women who used body and baby powder containing talc in underwear, on sanitary napkins or on condoms.
The research that documents the link between cancer and talc, the primary ingredient in talcum powder, focuses mainly on ovarian cancer. However, even the first study in 1971 to point to a possible connection between women dusting their genitals with talcum powder and ovarian cancer noted that talc particles enter a woman’s reproductive tract through the vagina and travel through the cervix into the uterus, and then move through the fallopian tubes to the ovaries.
Your fallopian tube cancer may have been caused by a consumer product that you had every reason to believe was safe, like Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower to Shower body powder, both of which are made of talcum powder. This should not have happened. Stern Law PLLC can help if your or your loved one used talcum powder for years and was laterdiagnosed with fallopian tube cancer.
Facts to Understand About the Fallopian Tubes and Cancer
Fallopian tubes are small ducts that connect women’s two ovaries to the uterus. When one of a woman’s ovaries releases an egg each month, it travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus (womb), where it can be fertilized, attach to the wall of the uterus and become a baby.
Sometimes an egg lodges in a fallopian tube and is fertilized there, resulting in an ectopic, or tubal, pregnancy. This requires emergency surgery, which may include removal of the damaged fallopian tube.
The fallopian tubes may also be surgically blocked, cut or tied as a means of birth control. This is known as a tubal ligation or, more commonly, “having your tubes tied.”
Cancer is an adverse mutation of cells, which typically results in the development of tumors as cancerous cells multiply. Like all cancers, fallopian tube cancer is named after the part of the body where it is first found.
Tubal cancer typically begins at the fringes of a fallopian tube, allowing cancer to easily spread to the adjacent ovary. In fact, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) says most cancers previously labeled “ovarian cancer” actually begin in a fallopian tube and, therefore, tubal cancer may not be as rare as once thought.
Most tubal cancer is identified as epithelial cancer, meaning it originated in the tissue covering the surface of the fallopian tube. Other very rare types of fallopian tube cancer include leiomyosarcoma, which begins in the smooth muscle of the fallopian tube, and transitional cell cancer that starts in other cells that line the fallopian tubes.
If fallopian tube cancer is left undiagnosed and untreated it will spread, or metastasize, to the ovaries, the uterus and beyond. Once cancer spreads to vital organs, it can cause grave illness and eventually death.
Because fallopian tube cancer is so rarely diagnosed, little is known specifically about it, particularly why it occurs. But statistics show that tubal cancer is most likely to occur in women between the ages of 50 and 60, although it can occur at any age. It is also more common in Caucasian women who have had few or no children.
Symptoms of Fallopian Tube Cancer
Tubal cancer is often not recognized until the cancer has spread beyond the fallopian tubes. Sometimes fallopian tube cancer is only discovered when a tube is removed surgically to treat another illness or problem.
The most common symptoms of fallopian tube cancer are:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, particularly after menopause
- Abdominal pain or pressure
- Vaginal discharge that is abnormal and white, clear or pinkish.
Additional symptoms of tubal cancer may include:
- Pain in the back, pelvis or abdomen
- Pain during sex
- Menstrual changes or other vaginal bleeding or discharge that is not normal for you
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal swelling with weight loss.
Unfortunately, many women with tubal cancer (or ovarian or cervical cancer) exhibit no symptoms. Additionally, these symptoms can be caused by several factors that are not related to tubal cancer.
Fallopian tube cancer is usually diagnosed because a lump, or mass, is found in the woman’s pelvic area. She may report it to her doctor, or a doctor or gynecologist may feel it during a routine pelvic exam. At this point, the doctor may ask about the symptoms above.
A Doctor’s Exam for Fallopian Tube Cancer
If you have symptoms of fallopian tube cancer, or your doctor discovers a pelvic mass, she or he will review your medical and lifestyle history, conduct an examination, a likely refer you for tests if a problem is still suspected.
The doctor’s questions will center on factors that increase and decrease the likelihood of contracting fallopian tube cancer.
You may be more likely to develop fallopian tube cancer if you:
- Have close family members (mother, sister, aunt and/or grandmother) who have had tubal or ovarian cancer
- Are middle-aged or older (50+)
- Are obese (a body mass index of 30+)
- Have a genetic mutation (abnormality) called BRCA1 or BRCA2, or one associated with Lynch syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS), Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (NBCCS), Li-Fraumeni,or Ataxia-Telangiectasia.
- Have had breast, colorectal (colon), or cervical cancer, or melanoma (skin cancer)
- Have endometriosis (a condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body)
- Have North American, Northern European, or Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
- Have never given birth or have had trouble getting pregnant
- Have used thefertility drug clomiphene citrate (Clomid) for more than a year
- Have taken estrogen by itself (without progesterone) for 10 years or longer
- Have taken androgen or Danazol, a drug that increases androgen levels.
You are less likely to have tubal cancer if you have:
- Used oral contraceptives (birth control pills) for more than five years
- Given birth
- Breastfed a baby for a year or more
- Had a tubal ligation (getting your tubes tied or cut) or a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix).
Some women who have finished their childbearing years and who have genetic factors (BRCA1 or 2, Lynch syndrome, etc.) that predispose them for fallopian tube cancer and other gynecological cancers have their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lessen their risk of developing cancer.
Medical tests used to help detect fallopian tube cancer include:
- Imaging tests (ultrasound, MRI, CAT scan, PET scan, etc.)
- Blood test for factors indicating cancer, such as the CA 125 test, tomeasure presence of protein CA 125 (cancer antigen 125)
- Laparoscopy, an invasive procedure for looking at the fallopian tubes
- Biopsy, which is taking a sample of tissue and/or ascites (fluid built up inside the abdomen) and examining them for cancerous cells.
Obtaining a biopsy requires surgery. If your surgeon identifies a tumor or tumors, he or she will likely remove as much of it as possible.
Talcum Powder Use and the Potential for Fallopian Tube Cancer
As your doctor considers a potential diagnosis of fallopian tube cancer, he or she may or may not ask about your use of products that contain talcum powder. Though multiple studies link talcum powder to an increased risk for tubal and other gynecological cancers, doctors do not always ask about talc in patient histories.
However, since the 1970s researchers have repeatedly found a higher risk of gynecological cancers among women who use talcum powder products in their genital areas. The primary element in talcum powder is talc, a silicate mineral found alongside asbestos, a known carcinogen, when mined. Talc also has a similar crystalline structure and chemical makeup as asbestos.
Clinical studies have reported findings of talc particles in ovarian cancer tumors, which means talc moved through the fallopian tubes.
Women across America have used and continue to use talcum powder in body powder or baby powder to absorb moisture and ease friction. Three of the most popular powders that contain talc are Johnson’s Baby Powder, Shower to Shower body powder and Baby Magic Baby Powder.
Cornstarch in baby or body powder does not present the health risk that talcum powder does. Consult the ingredients label of any product to determine whether it contains talc or talcum powder.
When you talk to a doctor or gynecologist about symptoms like those related to fallopian tube cancer, explain any history that includes regularly using products containing talcum powder (body powder or baby powder) for five or more years near your genitals, such as in panties, in sanitary napkins or on condoms.
Treating Fallopian Tube Cancer
If the results of your biopsy indicate that you have fallopian tube cancer, the treatment your doctors will suggest will be based on how far it has spread.
Treatment for tubal cancer may include one or more of these procedures:
- Surgery: Removing one or both of your fallopian tubes, and perhaps ovaries and/or your uterus and cervix (hysterectomy), and surrounding tissue.
- Chemotherapy: Destroying cancerous cells with drugs, which may be provided as pills or intravenously (into veins), or sometimes both.
- Radiation: Destroying cancer with high-energy rays similar to X-rays. (Radiation is least often used.)
Explaining the extent of cancer present in a patient is known as “staging.” The cancer’s stage is a key factor in selecting the right treatment plan.
There are multiple systems for “staging” gynecological cancers, each with higher stages indicating increased spread of the disease. The more a cancer has metastasized, the more severe the case and the less likely for the patient to achieve remission or a cure.
In general, fallopian tube cancer may be staged as:
- Stage I: Cancer found only within the fallopian tube(s) or ovary (or ovaries).
- Stage II: Cancer in one or both fallopian tubes or ovaries and in other pelvic organ(s), such as the uterus, bladder, sigmoid colon or rectum.
- Stage III: Cancer originating in one or both fallopian tubes and/or ovaries has spread beyond the pelvis to the lining of the abdomen and/or to lymph nodes in the back of the abdomen (retroperitoneal lymph nodes).
- Stage IV: Cancer is found inside the spleen, liver, lungs, or other organs located outside the peritoneal cavity (inner abdomen and upper pelvis).
Exploratory surgery may be required to see how far tubal cancer has spread beyond the fallopian tubes. Your doctor should explain the stage your cancer has reached, the risks and benefits of each treatment, and each treatment’s potential side effects.
Ask Stern Law About Fallopian Tube Cancer and Talcum Powder Use
If you or a family member of yours has received a diagnosis of fallopian tube cancer and there is a history of talcum powder use, contact Stern Law, PLLC. Our law firm works on behalf of women or the families of women who have gynecological cancers caused by talcum powder use and deserve compensation for their losses.
Ken Stern focuses his legal practice on individuals and families harmed by others’ negligence, including by corporations that produce dangerous consumer products. Stern Law provides answers, guidance and support to those whose lives have been shattered by debilitating injuries and illness. When harm done is such that our clients deserve to be compensated for their injuries and losses, we fight passionately on their behalf.
Contact Stern Law today. One of our talcum powder injury lawyers can meet with you for a free and confidential evaluation of your case. We seek justice for those unjustly injured by the undisclosed danger caused by talcum powder products.