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Female ovarian cancer patient speaking with doctor

Surgery is the main form of treatment for ovarian cancer. The goal is to remove the tumor in its entirety, but this may not be possible if the cancer is widespread or the tumor is located near vital structures. In these cases, radical debulking, or cytoreductive surgery, may be considered. 

The goal of radical debulking surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as safely possible. To achieve optimal surgical cytoreduction of the cancer, a surgeon will aim to leave behind no visible cancer cells or no tumors larger than 1 cm in diameter. Any cancer that remains after surgery is addressed with other treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or targeted therapy. By reducing the amount of cancer in the body, optimal debulking can enhance the effectiveness of follow-up treatment, leading to a better outcome and quality of life for the patient.

What does radical debulking surgery involve?

When performing radical debulking surgery to treat advanced ovarian cancer, a surgeon may need to remove various organs and tissues along with the tumor in order to optimally debulk the cancer. For instance, depending on the stage and extent of the cancer, radical debulking surgery may include a:

  • Unilateral oophorectomy - Removal of an ovary
  • Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy - Removal of an ovary and its adjoining fallopian tube
  • Bilateral oophorectomy - Removal of both ovaries
  • Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy - Removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes
  • Hysterectomy - Removal of the uterus and cervix
  • Lymphadenectomy - Removal of the pelvic lymph nodes
  • Omentectomy - Removal of the omentum

Additionally, if the cancer has spread beyond the reproductive system, the surgeon may remove a portion of the diaphragm, stomach, gallbladder, spleen, bladder and/or colon.

The organs and tissues removed during radical debulking surgery are microscopically examined by a pathologist, who can determine whether additional surgery or other treatment is needed. Through this analysis, the pathologist can also learn more about the cancer, such as the type of cells that make up the tumor. This information can be used to further refine any follow-up treatment.

Benefit from world-class care at Moffitt Cancer Center

Numerous studies have confirmed that women with advanced gynecologic cancer achieve better outcomes and quality of life when they are treated by a dedicated surgical team supported by a high-volume cancer center. The surgeons in Moffitt’s renowned gynecological clinic see many patients with uncommon and complex conditions, such as advanced ovarian cancer. They also collaborate closely with other specialists who provide chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapies and supportive care as appropriate.

Through ongoing research and groundbreaking clinical trials, Moffitt is continually developing and implementing novel treatment approaches to improve upon our already successful outcomes. If you have questions about radical debulking (cytoreductive) surgery or would like to explore your treatment options for ovarian cancer, you do not need a referral to talk with a specialist at Moffitt. Request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or submitting a new patient registration form online.

Ovarian Cancer