Ovarian Cancer Surgery

Ovarian Cancer Surgery

Surgery is the standard treatment for ovarian cancer. If your cancer has spread beyond your ovary, your doctors may recommend following your surgery with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is not generally used to treat ovarian cancer, but it may be a useful treatment for a small minority of women with ovarian cancer.

Studies show that outcomes are better for women whose surgery is performed by a gynecologic oncologist. All the surgeons who see patients at SCCA are gynecologic oncologists. Depending on how far your cancer has advanced, you may have surgery to remove just one ovary (and the fallopian tube), both ovaries, or a hysterectomy to remove the uterus as well as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Rather than relying on a biopsy to make treatment decisions, as with other types of cancer, ovarian cancer is most often diagnosed by the symptoms and with scans such as a CT or ultrasound.

If ovarian cancer is suspected, your gynecologic oncologist will recommend an exploratory surgery. If cancer is found, it will be removed at that time. The results of the surgery will allow your doctors to "stage" your disease. Any further treatment they recommend will depend to a large degree on the "stage" of your cancer, which means how far the disease has progressed.

If there is cancer elsewhere in the abdomen, your doctor will remove as much of the tumor as possible, a procedure that is called "debulking."  It has been well documented that patients have better outcomes if they have a maximal debulking at time of first surgery, called optimal debulking. Chemotherapy is more effective if as much of the cancer as possible is removed and your doctors may recommend chemotherapy following your surgery to destroy any cancer cells remaining.

Surgery for SCCA patients is performed at University of Washington Medical Center by gynecologic oncologists who provide care at both UWMC and SCCA.  

Minimally Invasive Surgery Option

Hysterectomies, node dissections and, when appropriate, ovarian or endometrial cancer staging/restaging can now be performed minimally invasively with robotics, like the da Vinci Surgical System. This system enhances the surgeon's capabilities and is shown to improve outcomes. The robot allows surgeons to do surgery without a large incision. It does not improve tumor control, but it does improve patient outcomes by reducing post operative pain, infection, blood loss, and reducing recovery time.