Study: Women with Ovarian Cancer Often Do Not Receive Medical Care that Could Prolong Their Lives

More than 15,000 women die of ovarian cancer each year, which makes it the fifth leading cause of death among American women. A new study shows that 60 percent of the women who develop ovarian cancer do not receive the medical care they need that could prolong their lives. The Society of Gynecologic Oncology’s (SGO) annual meeting on women’s cancer presented the study March 11, 2013.

This research was conducted on more than 13,000 patients from 1999 through 2006. Researchers who conducted the study said the lack of proper care for the women patients was the result of inexperience among doctors and hospital staff.

Women with ovarian cancer should be treated by surgeons who see a lot of patients each year with the disease, researchers found. They also said the women should stay in hospitals where a high volume of women with ovarian cancer are treated once the disease is diagnosed.

Ovarian cancer spreads inside the abdomen, and studies have shown that survival improves if women have surgery to remove all traces of the disease. Doctors recommend removing as much cancer as possible, following up with chemotherapy to eliminate any remaining cancerous cells. Sometimes surgery may include removal of the spleen, some of the intestine, stomach and other organs. The patient’s reproductive system must also be removed.

Correct therapy is recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Clinical Practice Guidelines. Researchers recommended seeing a surgeon who treats 10 or more ovarian cancer patients a year. Meanwhile, a high-volume hospital treats 20 or more ovarian cancer patients a year.

The study was led by Dr. Robert E. Bristow, who is director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Bristow recommended that patients become their own advocates. He said they should ask their doctors how many ovarian cancer patients they treat, how many ovarian cancer surgeries they perform and their ovarian cancer patients’ rates of survival.

This study found that most patients are treated at hospitals and by surgeons who are not sufficiently practiced in the correct treatment. Researchers also found that even patients treated at high-volume hospitals and by high-volume surgeons received proper treatment only about half the time.

Dr. Bristow pointed out that in many cases, physicians provided some of the recommended care, such as the appropriate chemotherapy or surgery, but not both. In a press release from the SGO, Dr. Bristow said, “This shows we have a lot of room to improve. We need to become more sophisticated and to determine what the best performing physicians are doing different from everyone else, establish best practices and then enforce them to improve outcomes.”

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Cook County cancer cases for individuals and families for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Lindenhurst, Chicago’s Lakeview, Orland Park, Hoffman Estates, Vernon Hills, and Niles, Ill.

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