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Ovarian cancer patients 70% less likely to die with aggressive surgical approach

Posted 27 October, 2023

Patients with ovarian cancer are 70% less likely to die three years after a multidisciplinary surgical approach is deployed, according to new research.

A study from the Mater University Hospital on treating advanced ovarian cancer has found that aggressive surgery involving multiple specialists has a significant impact on survival rates.

The work published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, and lead by Professor Donal Brennan, Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist at the Mater and Professor of Gynaecological Oncology at UCD School of Medicine, analysed more than 300 patients separated into two cohorts treated between 2006 to 2015 and 2017 to 2021.

In 2017, the Department of Gynaecological Oncology at the Mater adopted an innovative approach to ovarian cancer surgery that saw collaboration between different surgical disciplines to perform operations focused on removing all visible tumours from abdomens.

The study found that under the new approach the death rate of patients with the disease fell from 64.5% to 24%, and that three years after surgery cancer had progressed in 75% of patients in the first group (2006 to 2015), while in the second group (2017 to 2021) this figure had fallen to less than 50%.

Senior author of the study, Professor Brennan said the research supports the growing body of international evidence that patients with ovarian cancer have better outcomes when managed in centralised specialised oncology centres, such as the Mater.

“Ovarian cancer is a complicated disease that requires input from multiple specialties including medical oncology, pathology, radiology and surgery.”

The collaborative approach, he said, allows gynaecological oncologists as well as colorectal, hepatobiliary and upper gastrointestinal surgeons to carefully plan the removal of diseased tissue and subsequent treatment.

“We believe that collaboration between different surgical specialities allows us to safely perform aggressive operations to remove all visible tumours from the abdomen, which is the single greatest predictor of improved survival,” he added.

Jürgen Mulsow, Consultant General and Colorectal Surgeon at the Mater, said: “As part of our multidisciplinary approach to advanced cancer, we at the Mater Hospital collaborate with colleagues to select the most suitable patients for surgery. This collaboration ensures that patients receive integrated medical care from the moment of consideration of surgery to full recovery and has helped us to improve both peri-operative and long-term outcomes.”

Ovarian cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women in Ireland and is the seventh most prevalent female cancer globally.

It frequently presents at an advanced stage due to lack of symptom awareness, which can include feeling constantly bloated, a swollen tummy, discomfort in your tummy or pelvic area, loss of appetite, and needing to pee more often than usual.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations

To contact the UCD News & Content Team, email: newsdesk@ucd.ie