Specialists Specialize in Cancer Treatments

Ovarian cancer patients fare better when treated by specialists

March 17, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

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(dailyRx News) Taking a crashed computer into a TV repair shop doesn’t make any sense. Neither does going to a doctor that doesn’t specialize in gynecologic cancer with a case of ovarian cancer.

A recent study showed that only one in three women received treatment that followed the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines.

Women who received treatment that followed those guidelines were more likely to beat ovarian cancer.

“This study clearly shows that if every woman with ovarian cancer would get her care by an expert gynecologic oncologist, the survival rate would be much better," Ernst Lengyel, MD, PhD, professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Chicago, told dailyRx News.

"Ovarian cancer? Call a gynecologic oncologist."

Robert Bristow, MD, Director of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of California’s Irvine Medical Center, presented evidence on adherence to treatment guidelines for treating ovarian cancer at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology in Los Angeles.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has a set of Clinical Practice Guidelines for treating ovarian cancer that involves surgery and chemotherapy based on the stage of cancer.

For this study, researchers set out to test how many treatment plans for ovarian cancer followed the NCCN guidelines and whether following those guidelines improved treatment outcomes.

The researchers looked through the California Cancer Registry for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer between 1999-2006 and had undergone surgical removal of their ovaries. A total of 13,321 women fit the criteria.

The study results showed that only 37 percent of women received treatment that followed the NCCN guidelines.

The researchers found that high-volume hospitals gave treatment that followed the NCCN guidelines 51 percent of the time compared to low-volume hospitals at 34 percent of the time.

If a hospital treated 20 or more cases of ovarian cancer per year, it was considered high volume. If a surgeon performed 10 or more surgeries to remove a woman’s ovaries per year, they were considered high-volume surgeons.

High-volume surgeons followed the NCCN treatment guidelines 48 percent of the time compared to 35 percent of the time by low-volume surgeons.

The researchers found that patients treated by the NCCN guidelines had a better chance of living for at least 10 years after ovarian cancer diagnosis.

The authors concluded that patients treated by both low-volume hospitals and low-volume surgeons were less likely to live through ovarian cancer. The authors recommended ovarian cancer treatments stick to the NCCN guidelines for patients to have the best shot at beating ovarian cancer.

The authors did not give any reasons as to why high-volume hospitals and doctors only followed NCCN treatment guidelines 51 and 48 percent of the time, respectively. 

To put these numbers into perspective, 35 percent of women in the UK with ovarian cancer live for at least 10 years after diagnosis, based on 2007 statistics.

"Almost all women in the US have a gynecologic oncologist within a few hours of traveling distance and should make the effort to see an expert,” Dr. Lengyel said.

These findings were presented at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer held in Los Angeles, CA, from March 9-12, 2013. 

No funding information was made available to the public. No conflicts of interest were declared. These study findings have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.