At Miami Cancer Institute, we believe in tailoring treatment to each patient. Our team of specialists brings together expertise from all areas of cancer care to create a personalized plan that fits your specific diagnosis. Whether you need surgery, chemotherapy or a combination of treatments, we’ll find an effective solution that meets your needs and preferences.
Ovarian cancer debulking surgery is a treatment that removes cancerous tumors from the pelvis. Debulking usually happens after the surgeon removes the affected ovaries. It is also sometimes called ovarian cytoreduction surgery. The goal of the surgery is to remove all visible cancer in the pelvis or abdomen.
Who benefits from ovarian cancer debulking surgery?
Many ovarian cancer patients start treatment with a total hysterectomy. A total hysterectomy is surgery to remove the uterus, ovaries and other reproductive organs, such as the fallopian tubes. If the cancer has spread to other areas of the pelvis or abdomen, debulking surgery removes the visible tumors from those areas. Similar surgery is also used to treat fallopian tube and primary peritoneal cancers.
Research in the United States has shown that ovarian cancer patients who undergo optimal ovarian cancer debulking surgery followed by chemotherapy treatment have more positive outcomes. An optimal surgery means the surgeons have successfully removed all of the visible cancer from the pelvis or abdomen.
Not every patient may be a candidate for ovarian cancer debulking surgery, which is why it’s crucial to find an expert team who can thoroughly evaluate your condition and personalize treatment to your needs.
How does ovarian cancer debulking surgery work?
The type of debulking surgery you receive will depend on your diagnosis and other health conditions you may have. Our team is trained in both minimally invasive (laparoscopic) and traditional open surgery techniques. We are also one of the only centers in the country offering robot-assisted ovarian cancer surgery.
Before surgery, your care team will order tests you may need and answer any questions you have about the procedure. They will also give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery. You must follow these instructions carefully, as they can affect the outcome of your surgery. Surgery preparation can include:
- Talking to your care team about your current medications
- Stopping or changing certain medicines or supplements
- Designating a caregiver
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Breathing and coughing exercises
- Bowel preparation
During the procedure, your surgical team will remove your ovaries, all visible tumors and any other tissues or organs where the cancer may have spread. This may include removing the:
- Fallopian tubes
- Omentum (tissue that covers the stomach, large intestine and other abdominal organs)
- Lymph nodes
- Part of the large bowel
- Parts of the liver
Do you use other treatments with ovarian cancer debulking surgery?
Many ovarian cancer patients receive chemotherapy in addition to surgery. In some cases, we may perform hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) during the surgery. HIPEC involves filling the abdomen with heated chemotherapy drugs after surgeons have removed all the tumors from the abdominal area.
Your care team will only use HIPEC if they can remove all visible tumors during your initial surgery. Because we give HIPEC during surgery, your doctor or care team will discuss with you whether you’re a good candidate for the treatment and get your consent for HIPEC treatment before your surgery. You will not need to prepare any differently for the surgery.
Depending on your diagnosis, you may need to undergo additional chemotherapy treatments after surgery, even if you receive HIPEC. These treatments usually start four to six weeks after surgery
What can I expect after ovarian cancer debulking surgery?
Most people who undergo ovarian cancer debulking surgery will need to recover in the hospital for five to seven days after the surgery. At Miami Cancer Institute, we have specialists who use the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) method, which allows patients to heal faster with less pain. ERAS avoids using narcotics and involves a cross-team approach between your nurses and anesthesiologists.
We will also work closely with you and your caregiver on your recovery plan, which may include:
- Medicines, including pain medicine
- Incision care
- Showering and bathing
- Diet and any foods you should avoid
- Breathing exercises
- Guidelines for physical activity and sexual intercourse
- Symptoms to watch for and when to contact your care team
If you underwent HIPEC during surgery, your recovery should be the same. However, you may experience some chemotherapy side effects, including nausea and fatigue, after the treatment.
You may also have questions about sexual health and function after treatment. Our team of rehabilitation specialists and psychosocial therapists will be by your side to work with you through any concerns you have during and after treatment.
When you come to Miami Cancer Institute for ovarian cancer debulking surgery, you’ll receive care from the region’s most experienced cancer specialists. Our team of experts spans multiple specialties, including surgical oncology, thoracic oncology and gynecologic oncology. They understand the complex nature of this surgery and are dedicated to providing complete care with precision.
Many of our surgeons are also highly skilled in robotic ovarian cancer surgery, and we are one of only a few centers in the country to offer this treatment option. Robotic surgery can help reduce hospital stays, cause less pain and speed up recovery. With fewer side effects and a quicker recovery, patients can undergo additional chemotherapy treatment faster, which can result in better outcomes.
We also provide comprehensive care through every step of the surgery process, from pre-operative management to post-operative care. This includes a dedicated team of nurses who have experience caring for patients before, during and after ovarian cancer surgery.