Objective: There is much debate on the effect of specialized care for ovarian cancer patients. In this review we present an overview and summary of the recent literature on this subject.
Methods: The Pubmed database was searched for studies on the relationship between care setting (type of gynecologist or hospital) and care outcomes which were published between January 1991 and November 2006. Studies were included if they were of sufficient quality and included patients treated from 1990 onwards.
Results: Nineteen articles were retrieved. There were no randomized controlled trials on this subject. Staging and debulking were consistently found to be performed more adequately by gynecologic oncologists (pooled relative risk of optimal debulking by a gynecologic oncologist to <2 cm residual disease 1.4 (95%CI 1.2-1.5) and to no macroscopic disease 2.3 (95%CI 1.5-3.5)) and in specialized hospitals (odds ratios for optimal debulking varied between 1.9 and 6.0). There were no differences in postoperative complication rates between different providers. Chemotherapy was given 1-15% more often in specialized settings. Differences in chemotherapy did not lead to differences in survival of patients treated by gynecologic oncologists, but did influence the effect of hospital on survival. Long-term survival was better after treatment in a specialized hospital. Surgery by a gynecologic oncologist resulted in longer survival in subgroups of patients, leading to a 5- to 8-month median survival benefit for patients with advanced stage disease.
Conclusions: The outcome of ovarian cancer is better when treatment is provided by a gynecologic oncologist or in a specialized hospital.