Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer in women and the leading cause of death caused by gynecologic malignancy. Surgery plays a fundamental role in treating this challenging disease. Goals of primary surgery for ovarian cancer are to establish diagnosis, proper staging, determination of prognosis, and optimal cytoreduction of gross disease before chemotherapy for improved outcome. In addition to standard removal of the ovaries, uterus, omentum, and pelvic and para-aortic lymph nodes for early disease, extended surgical techniques used to debulk advanced disease include bowel resection, splenectomy, partial liver resection, peritoneal or diaphragmatic stripping, and use of laser or ultrasound (CUSA). Secondary surgery is used in a variety of situations. Second-look procedures were performed historically to determine response to chemotherapy to delineate duration of treatment, but now are best used in a research setting with the advent of improved chemotherapeutic agents. As a high percentage of patients have a gynecologic malignancy recurrence after primary treatment, many practitioners perform secondary cytoreductive procedures for recurrent disease. Additionally, in the recurrent setting, surgery may be necessary for relief of bowel obstruction and palliation of symptoms. Surgical management of ovarian cancer must be performed by surgeons, such as gynecologic oncologists, who have a firm understanding of the disease process, display good clinical judgment, and are adequately trained to perform the complex surgery that commonly is required for appropriate care.
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