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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

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Ovarian Epithelial Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Stage III and Stage IV Ovarian Epithelial Cancer Treatment

Treatment options for patients with all stages of ovarian epithelial cancer have consisted of surgery followed by chemotherapy.


Patients diagnosed with stage III and stage IV disease are treated with surgery and chemotherapy; however, the outcome is generally less favorable for patients with stage IV disease. The role of surgery for patients with stage IV disease is unclear, but in most instances, the bulk of the disease is intra-abdominal, and surgical procedures similar to those used in the management of patients with stage III disease are applied. The options for intraperitoneal (IP) regimens are also less likely to apply both practically (as far as inserting an IP catheter at the outset) and theoretically (aimed at destroying microscopic disease in the peritoneal cavity) in patients with stage IV disease.

Surgery has been used as a therapeutic modality and also to adequately stage the disease. Surgery should include total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy with omentectomy and debulking of as much gross tumor as can safely be performed. While primary cytoreductive surgery may not correct for biologic characteristics of the tumor, considerable evidence indicates that the volume of disease left at the completion of the primary surgical procedure is related to patient survival.[1] A literature review showed that patients with optimal cytoreduction had a median survival of 39 months compared with survival of only 17 months in patients with suboptimal residual disease.[1][Level of evidence: 3iA]

Results of a retrospective analysis of 349 patients with postoperative residual masses no larger than 1 cm suggested that patients who present at the outset with large-volume disease and achieve small-volume disease by surgical debulking have poorer outcomes than similar patients who present with small-volume disease.[2] Gradual improvement in survival with decreasing residual tumor volume is likely. Although the association may not be causal, retrospective analyses, including a meta-analysis of patients receiving platinum-based chemotherapy, have found cytoreduction to be an independent prognostic variable for survival.[3,4]

For the past 3 decades, the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) has conducted separate trials for women whose disease has been optimally cytoreduced (most recently defined as ≤1 cm residuum) and for those who had suboptimal cytoreductions (>1 cm residuum). The extent of residual disease following the initial surgery is a determinant of outcome in most series [1,2,3,4] and has been used in the design of clinical trials, particularly by the GOG.

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