Objective: To evaluate the relationship between surgical specialty and survival in patients receiving initial surgical management for ovarian epithelial cancer.
Study methods: An analytic framework was constructed to address the principle question 'does the type of surgeon operating on patients with newly diagnosed ovarian epithelial cancer influence survival?' A literature search addressing the components of this analytic framework was carried out using the Cochrane Library, Medline, EMBASE, and HealthSTAR databases. Relevant articles were selected and graded using U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and Canadian Task Force guidelines. Results were summarized by quality as well as level of evidence.
Results: Eighteen studies were reviewed. The quality of evidence was good in 3, fair in 8, and poor in 7 of the studies. The most common study flaws encountered were 'failure to account for confounders' and 'incompleteness of data'. In studies focusing on advanced disease, there was good quality evidence to support a 6- to 9-month median survival benefit for patients operated on by gynecologic oncologists rather than general gynecologists and/or general surgeons (P values 0.009 to 0.01). Studies focusing on early stage disease found gynecologic oncologists more likely to carry out optimal staging (P values 0.001 to 0.01). Increased survival could be explained by improved identification of true stage I patients.
Conclusion: Patients receiving initial surgical management for ovarian epithelial cancer should be operated on by gynecologic oncologists.