Women's Health

Secondary Cytoreductive Surgery May Benefit Platinum-Sensitive Ovarian Cancer Patients

Secondary Cytoreductive Surgery May Benefit Platinum-Sensitive Ovarian Cancer Patients

When a woman who survived ovarian cancer is diagnosed with a recurrence, surgical resection is the widely accepted treatment recommended across the board. It's such an aggressive disease with high mortality, that it's simply best to try and cut out as much of the tumor as possible. Surgery is a big deal. Even though, for cancer patients, it may make so much sense to try and cut out the tumor, going through major surgery requiring general anesthesia always comes with some level of risk.

However, in the case of ovarian cancer, the risk of cancer progression is so high that surgery is almost always the best choice, at least initially. The question is, what about secondary surgery? Is it really necessary for ovarian cancer patients?

Can chemotherapy alone replace secondary surgery for recurrent ovarian cancer patients?

This question came to light as it's still not clear whether secondary surgery is an absolute must for the benefit of ovarian cancer patients going through a recurrence. Is it really better than simply undergoing chemotherapy alone? If patients could potentially be cured with just the initial surgery followed by chemotherapy afterward, we may be able to spare many of these women from having to go through two major surgeries while fighting such a terrible disease. Many of these women are already putting their bodies through a lot of physical and emotional stress, and adding a second surgery doesn't make things any easier. For that reason, physicians and scientists wondered whether this second surgery was even really necessary.

Why do these patients get second surgery at all?

What is the purpose of the second surgery? Usually, ovarian cancer patients with recurrent tumors will always undergo an initial surgery to debulk their cancerous tumors. In addition to this potentially life-saving surgery, most women also require medical treatment as well such as radiation or chemotherapy. This way of treating recurrent ovarian cancer is widely accepted by most physicians today, including those who specialize in gynecologic cancers. However, what seems to be the question is the issue of secondary surgery, where patients are brought back to the operating room for further resection of any residual tumor.

It's possible that some patients may benefit more from receiving chemotherapy alone

Why is this a big deal? Some experts believe that patients may actually do just as well (if not better) if they receive second-line chemotherapy alone instead of secondary surgery to treat their cancers. This is important because as a healthcare professional, the goal is to help patients suffering from recurrent ovarian cancer by maximizing benefit and minimizing risk. Putting someone through a second surgery if there is no additional benefit may turn out to be doing more harm than good. If that's the case, we need to change the way we manage our ovarian cancer patients.

Read on to learn the benefits and risks associated with second surgery and chemotherapy outcomes for ovarian cancer.