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Surgeon's Area of Specialty Affects Ovarian Cancer Results

But hospital volume and surgeon experience has little impact, studies find

TUESDAY, Jan. 31, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital volume and surgeon experience don't affect the risk of death following surgery for ovarian cancer, but a surgeon's area of specialty does have some impact, new research finds.

The first study looked at short-term (60-day) and longer term (two-year) death rates and overall survival for 2,952 women, age 65 and older, who had surgery for primary ovarian cancer between 1992 and 1999.

The data showed that hospital caseload and surgeon experience weren't associated with short-term mortality. The researchers did find that patients treated at high-volume hospitals did have somewhat better longer-term outcomes than those treated at low-volume hospitals, but there wasn't a major difference.

Previous studies had identified a strong association between high case volumes and favorable outcomes in patients who had high-risk operations such as pancreatetomy, esophagectomy and lung resections.

The second study focused on how a surgeon's area of specialty affected outcomes for 3,067 ovarian cancer surgery patients. Of those patients, 33 percent were treated by a gynecologic oncologist, 45 percent by a general gynecologist, and 22 percent by a general surgeon.

Patients treated by a gynecologic oncologist had the best outcomes and lowest death rates, which were marginally better than those of patients treated by a general gynecologist, and much better than those of patients treated by general surgeons, the study found.

The study also found that gynecologic oncologists were most likely to perform sufficiently extensive surgery and most likely to provide patients with post-operative chemotherapy when necessary.

"Our data support professional societies' recommendations that it is preferable for ovarian cancer patients to be operated on by gynecologic oncologists when possible," wrote the study authors, led by Dr. Craig C. Earle, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Both studies appear in the Feb. 1 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

More Information

The American Cancer Society has more about ovarian cancer treatment.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, Feb. 1, 2006
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