Surgery may significantly extend ovarian cancer patients’ lives, but one in five women does not have the procedure, a new study finds.
“Though surgery isn’t right for every patient, we suspect that some women do not receive beneficial surgical treatment because they have poor access to specialty care,” said lead researcher Dr. David Shalowitz. He is a fellow in gynecologic oncology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
“While some women may benefit more from non-surgical treatment, the results of our study showed that on average, women who received surgery lived more than four years, compared to less than one year for those who received only non-surgical treatment,” he said in a university news release.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 210,000 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States between 2003 and 2011. The investigators found that, regardless of cancer stage, those who had surgery lived an average of 57 months, compared to less than 12 months for those who had chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and 1.4 months for those who received no treatment.
The study also found that 95 percent of patients who did not undergo surgery had advanced cancer, and that among patients older than 75 with stage 3 or 4 cancer, nearly half did not have surgery and about 25 percent received no treatment.
Surgery is a standard part of treatment recommendations, the researchers said.
“Our results reinforce that patients should not be triaged away from surgical care simply because of advanced age or stage, as there seems to be a survival benefit associated with surgical treatment for these groups as well,” Shalowitz said.
“However, we were particularly concerned that nearly 23 percent of elderly patients with advanced-stage ovarian cancer received no treatment. These untreated cases warrant further investigation as they may represent sentinel cases of failure to access or deliver appropriate cancer care,” he concluded.
The findings were published online in May in the journal Gynecologic Oncology.
The U.S. Office on Women’s Health has more on ovarian cancer.