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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

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Chemotherapy May Improve Ovarian Cancer Odds

Adding Chemotherapy After Ovarian Cancer Surgery May Improve Treatment

WebMD Health News

Sept. 27, 2004 -- Adding a course of chemotherapy after surgery may improve survival and reduce the risks of recurrence for women with ovarian cancer that's caught in the early stages, a new study shows.

Researchers say there has been controversy regarding whether women with early stage ovarian cancer benefit from chemotherapy after surgery.

But a review of research on the issue shows that adding chemotherapy following surgery for women diagnosed with early stage ovarian cancer may reduce their risk of death or having their cancer come back by more than 25%.

The results of the study appear in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Cancer.

Optimizing Ovarian Cancer Treatment

About a quarter of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have it caught in the early stages, before the cancer has spread beyond the ovaries. Women with stage I ovarian cancer are treated surgically with a total abdominal hysterectomy, removal of both ovaries and their fallopian tubes. With surgery to remove the affected areas, the five-year survival rate for these women is about 85%.

But researchers says some doctors have been hesitant to offer chemotherapy following surgery because surgery alone is usually enough to treat eight in 10 patients at this early stage. And adding a course of chemotherapy could cause unnecessary side effects.

In their review of 13 studies on chemotherapy in ovarian cancer treatment conducted since 1965, researchers found women with early stage ovarian cancer who received chemotherapy had an overall 26% lower risk of death and 30% lower risk of having the cancer come back, compared with women that did not receive chemotherapy.

However, researchers say there isn't enough data to recommend a specific type or scheduling for chemotherapy in these women.

Researchers found that having the stage of the cancer adequately assessed by surgery at the start of cancer treatment was also a major factor influencing the success of treatment. For women who have their cancer accurately assessed as stage I cancer, the chances of survival are good without chemotherapy.

However, researchers found many of the women who appeared to benefit from chemotherapy after surgery had been improperly diagnosed with stage I cancer, and after surgery it was determined that the cancer was more advanced.

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