Involvement of gynecologic oncologists in the treatment of patients with a suspicious ovarian mass

Obstet Gynecol. 2011 Oct;118(4):854-62. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31822dabc6.


Objective: To identify the factors associated with inclusion of a gynecologic oncologist in managing the care of a woman with suspected ovarian cancer.

Methods: A vignette-based survey was mailed to 3,200 physicians aged 64 and younger who were randomly sampled from family physician, general internist, and obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) lists from the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile. The vignette described a 57-year-old woman with pain, bloating, and a suspicious right adnexal mass with ascites. Using multivariable analysis we evaluated patient, physician, and practice characteristics associated with a self-reported referral or inclusion of a gynecologic oncologist in the patient's care.

Results: The response rate was 61.7%. After exclusions we included 569 ob-gyns, 591 family physicians, and 414 general internists. Gynecologic oncologist referral and consultation was self reported by 39.3% of family physicians and 51.0% of general internists (P=.01). Among ob-gyns, 33.7% indicated they would perform surgery and 66.3% recommended consultation or referral. Factors associated with not referring and consulting included patients having Medicaid insurance (family physicians), providers' weekly average number of patients being more than 91 (family physicians and general internists), male sex (family physicians), a rural practice location (general internists), and solo practice (general internists). Factors associated with primary surgical management for ob-gyns were small and remote rural practice locations and Census division.

Conclusion: When presented with a patient with a suspicious ovarian mass, the majority of primary care physicians do not self-report direct referral to a gynecologic oncologist. This may contribute to the high rates of noncomprehensive surgery for ovarian cancer patients in the United States.

Level of evidence: II.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures*
  • Gynecology
  • Health Care Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States