One in three U.S. ovarian cancer patients does not get the recommended comprehensive surgery, researchers reported on Monday.
Women over the age of 70, blacks or Hispanics and Medicaid patients are especially likely to be undertreated for the cancer, which is highly deadly, Dr. Barbara Goff of the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues found.
“All ovarian cancer patients, especially those who are vulnerable because of age, race, or socioeconomic status, (should be) referred to centers or surgeons from whom they are more likely to get optimal surgery,” the researchers recommended.
Research shows that aggressive surgery and chemotherapy can more effectively treat ovarian cancer.
Goff’s team looked at hospital records in nine states to find that women treated at non-specialist centers were also likely to be undertreated.
Writing in the journal Cancer, Goff and colleagues said care varied greatly state by state. Their study echoed other research that shows doctors who see many patients in their area of specialty tend to provide the recommended care — and to have better outcomes.
Goff’s team found that only 67 percent of the 10,432 women whose cases they reviewed received the recommended comprehensive surgical procedures.
Fully a third of the women were treated at a hospital that performed fewer than 10 ovarian cancer operations a year. Nearly half of the women were treated by surgeons who performed fewer than 10 procedures a year and a quarter were operated on by surgeons who only did one such operation a year.
The American Cancer Society predicts that 22,430 women will get ovarian cancer in the United States in 2007 and that 15,280 will die of it.
It is deadly because it shows few clear symptoms early on and is often only detected after it has spread. But extensive surgery and chemotherapy can often save lives.