According to a recent article published in the journal Cancer, women with ovarian cancer whose surgery is performed by a gynecologic oncologist have improved survival compared to women whose surgery is performed by a general gynecologist.
Approximately 25,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Regardless of the stage (extent of spread) of ovarian cancer, the removal of as much cancer as possible is associated with survival. Specifically, women who have no residual cancer mass larger than 1 centimeter in diameter, referred to as “optimal cytoreduction”, following surgery tend to have better survival than those with a larger mass of residual cancer.
Recent research has indicated that surgeon tendency and more aggressive surgery in eligible women leads to improved survival in ovarian cancer. Research continues into whether more practiced surgeons achieve greater survival among this group of patients.
Gynecologic oncologists are physicians who specialize in cancers of the female reproductive system. General gynecologists are physicians who specialize in all medical concerns of the female reproductive system.
Researchers from the Netherlands recently conducted a study including patients with all stages of ovarian cancer who were diagnosed between 1994 and 1997. Outcomes of gynecologic oncologists were compared to those of general gynecologists. Initial surgery was performed on 184 patients by gynecologic oncologists and on 328 patients by general gynecologists. Women whose surgery was performed by a gynecologic oncologist had improved outcomes:
- Gynecologic oncologists removed more cancer during surgery in twice the number of patients with stage III ovarian cancer as general gynecologists (24% vs. 12%, respectively).
- Gynecologic oncologists followed surgical guidelines more strictly than general gynecologists in all stages of ovarian cancer (55% vs. 33%, respectively for stages I-II; 60% vs. 40%, respectively for stages III-IV).
- At 5 years, survival was 86% for patients who underwent surgery by a gynecologic oncologist, compared with only 70% for those who underwent initial surgery by a general gynecologist.
The researchers concluded that initial surgery for women with ovarian cancer performed by a gynecologic oncologist improves survival over surgery performed by a general gynecologist. Patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer should seek a gynecologic oncologist to perform their surgery.
Reference: Engelen M, Kos H, Willemse P, et al. Surgery by Consultant Gynecologic Oncologists Improves Survival in Patients with Ovarian Carcinoma. Cancer. 2006; 3: 589 – 598.