Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quality of Ovarian Cancer Treatment Varies Widely

The city of Los Angeles hosted the annual meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology , held Saturday through Tuesday. A variety of topics was presented by clinicians and researchers in the field of gynecologic cancers, with one resonating not only among the conference's attendees, but also with the general public -- that of the varying degrees of the quality of treatment provided for ovarian cancer.

Study Results Presented on Quality, Outcome of Ovarian Cancer Treatment

Robert Bristow, M.B.A., M.D. , of the University of California, Irvine, presented the results of his research team's findings on Monday , explaining that of the more than 13,000 women with epithelial ovarian cancer listed on the California Cancer Registry from 1999 to 2006, only 37 percent received treatment that adhered to the guidelines of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network , NCCN, the gold standard for best treatment.

Responding to the study's findings, Deborah Armstrong, M.D. , of Johns Hopkins University and an oncology specialist, told the New York Times that if most women weren't receiving best care for survival in breast cancer treatment, there would be much public backlash. Ovarian cancer, Armstrong explained, has a smaller advocacy community, likely because many women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are a little older, a little sicker, and less likely to advocate for themselves and others.

What Affected the Treatment Quality for Ovarian Cancer Patients?

Bristow's study pointed to two major factors that determined whether patients with ovarian cancer received treatment according to NCCN protocols or something less: Surgeons who operated on 10 or more women a year for ovarian cancer, and hospitals that treated 20 or more women with ovarian cancer each year were more likely to adhere to the NCCN guidelines -- and more likely to live longer.

Why Are the NCCN Guidelines so Important in Ovarian Cancer Treatment?

Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths among women, and the most deadly of all the gynecologic cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute . Fortunately, the incidence of the disease is low, with a lifetime risk factor of 1.38 percent. Unfortunately, for the majority of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer -- approximately 85 percent -- the disease has already spread beyond the ovaries.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 90 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are over the age of 40, with most women first diagnosed at age 55 or older.

Combine the fact that by age 40 and over, some women also have other chronic conditions with the fact that ovarian cancer has such a high mortality rate and it becomes easy to see why prompt and correct treatment of the diagnosed disease is vital.

The NCCN guidelines are evidence-based guidelines developed by an alliance of 21 major cancer centers with an expert panel that comb through research and recommend treatments. In the case of ovarian cancer, the surgical procedures and chemotherapy regimen are given, based on the stage of the disease.

Bottom Line

Who you choose to provide treatment, both surgical and in chemotherapy, makes a big difference in the success of your ovarian cancer treatment. Ask prospective doctors and surgeons if they follow NCCN guidelines. If circumstances permit, choose a gynecologic oncologist and a hospital or treatment center that has regular experience with treating this disease. As Bristow's study results show, the quality of your life and its longevity depend on your wise choices.