Bowel obstruction in elderly ovarian cancer patients: a population-based study

Gynecol Oncol. 2013 Apr;129(1):107-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2012.12.028. Epub 2012 Dec 26.


Purpose: Bowel obstruction is a common pre-terminal event in abdominal/pelvic cancer that has mainly been described in small single-institution studies. We used a large, population-based database to investigate the incidence, management, and outcomes of obstruction in ovarian cancer patients.

Patients and methods: We identified patients with stages IC-IV ovarian cancer, aged 65 years or older, in the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database diagnosed between January 1, 1991 and December 31, 2005. We modeled predictors of inpatient hospitalization for bowel obstruction after cancer diagnosis, categorized management of obstruction, and analyzed the associations between treatment for obstruction and outcomes.

Results: Of 8607 women with ovarian cancer, 1518 (17.6%) were hospitalized for obstruction subsequent to cancer diagnosis. Obstruction at cancer diagnosis (HR=2.17, 95%CI: 1.86-2.52) and mucinous tumor histology (HR=1.45, 95%CI: 1.15-1.83) were associated with increased risk of subsequent obstruction. Surgical management of obstruction was associated with lower 30-day mortality (13.4% in women managed surgically vs. 20.2% in women managed non-surgically), but equivalent survival after 30 days and equivalent rates of post-obstruction chemotherapy. Median post-obstruction survival was 382 days in women with obstructions of adhesive origin and 93 days in others.

Conclusion: In this large-scale, population-based assessment of patients with advanced ovarian cancer, nearly 20% of women developed bowel obstruction after cancer diagnosis. While obstruction due to adhesions did not signal the end of life, all other obstructions were pre-terminal events for the majority of patients regardless of treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / etiology*
  • Intestinal Obstruction / surgery
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / complications*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / mortality
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • SEER Program