Hospitals that specialize in care for ovarian cancer are associated with significantly improved survival for women with early ovarian cancer. These results were recently reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Every female is born with two ovaries that are located on either side of the pelvis. Each ovary contains all of the eggs she will have during her lifetime. An egg is released each month during ovulation.
Ovarian cancer is the most deadly gynecologic cancer, largely because the disease is most often diagnosed in late stages, once it has spread from the ovary. Ovarian cancer does not tend to exhibit distinct symptoms during its early stages, leaving many women unaware of the progression of their disease. However, if ovarian cancer is detected and treated early, cure rates remain high.
There has been recent evidence that patients with certain types of cancers have improved outcomes when treated by a disease specialist or when treated in a specialized hospital or medical institute. Specifically, data from some studies have indicated that women with ovarian cancer who are treated by a gynecologic oncologist who performs many surgeries for ovarian cancer have a higher survival rate than patients not treated by an experienced specialist in the specified surgical procedures. Further research continues into this topic, as all patients do not have convenient access to specialists and specialty centers.
Researchers from the Netherlands recently conducted another study to further evaluate the relationship between hospital experience and outcomes among women with early ovarian cancer. This study included 8,621 women; 40% of participants were treated in general hospitals, 41% were treated in semispecialized hospitals, and 18% were treated in specialized hospitals. Specialized hospitals had gynecologic oncologists on staff and were regional hospitals for treating gynecologic cancers, whereas semispecialized hospitals were community hospitals that had physicians on staff with subspecialty training in gynecologic oncology.
- Among women with Stage I-IIA ovarian cancer who were aged 50-75 years of age, the risk of death from ovarian cancer was reduced by 42% among women treated at specialized hospitals and by 30% among those treated at semispecialized hospitals compared with those treated at general hospitals.
- Among patients with advanced ovarian cancer, hospital type was not associated with survival.
The researchers concluded: “Hospital type was statistically significantly associated with survival among Dutch ovarian cancer patients with early-stage ovarian cancer: Patients who were treated in specialized and semispecialized hospitals survived longer than patients treated in general hospitals.” Women with early ovarian cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding the degree of expertise of the hospital where they will be undergoing surgery.
Reference: Vernooji F, Heintz P, Witteveen P, et al. Specialized care and survival of ovarian cancer patients in the Netherlands: nationwide cohort study. Journal of the National Cancer Institute [early online publication]. March 11, 2008. DOI: doi:10.1093/jnci/djn033.