Two treatments are proven to lengthen the lives of women with ovarian cancer, but only 1 in 3 patients gets them, according to a new study. It’s no mystery why. The old rule for better health care — experience, experience, experience — is proven out again.
Ovarian cancer is a bone-scary diagnosis because of its dismal prognosis. But the understandable fright causes many women to make illogical moves when they reach out for care: First, they often look to a familiar face for treatment, such as the obstetrician who birthed their children (who usually is qualified on paper to take out ovaries, but lacks big-time experience with ovarian cancer). Second, they think they have to get surgery in a matter of days, not weeks, and that leads them to grab onto whatever surgeon can see them first.
These are mistakes that can shorten lives. The two treatments that are shown to lengthen life of ovarian cancer patients are:
* Debulking surgery.
* Chemotherapy delivered directly to the inside of the abdomen, called intraperitoneal (IP) chemo.
The best advice for women with a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer is to get to a “center of excellence” for cancer treatment, and to make sure the surgery is done by a gynecologic oncologist. That’s a gynecologist with extra training in women’s cancers of the reproductive organs.
Also, make sure the surgeon does ovarian debulking surgeries at least about once a month, or a dozen times a year. The operation often takes six or more hours, and it’s necessary to have a surgeon with the skill, experience and meticulous patience to take out all visible signs of the cancer from inside the lower abdomen.
The seeds of cancer are scattered like Rice Krispies, and the best result is for those women who get all visible cancer removed by the surgeon, and then get the pelvis washed out with IP chemo.
Read more about this in a takeout in the New York Times by Denise Grady.