What is surgical debulking of ovarian cancer?

Surgical debulking of ovarian cancer involves removing as much of the abnormal tumor and/or tissue as possible. If your ovarian cancer has spread throughout the abdomen, debulking is an important procedure. The goal of the procedure is to get as much abnormal tissue as possible. 

Patients have a better long-term prognosis after a surgical debulking has removed all the larger tumors.

Who is a candidate for surgical debulking?

Patients who have ovarian cancer that has spread throughout the abdomen may be candidates for surgical debulking. 

Your Mercy Health cancer team will determine if you can handle the stress of a surgical debulking by evaluating your overall health, previous treatments for cancer and when the last cancer treatment was performed (if it is a recurrence).

What are the complications associated with surgical debulking?

Complications that could arise after a surgical debulking include:

  • Fever 
  • Infection
  • Need for a blood transfusion
  • Venous thrombosis
  • Hemorrhage
  • Death in post-operative period
  • Digestive or urinary fistula 
  • Pleural effusion
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Pneumonia 

What to expect during surgical debulking?

During a surgical debulking, your surgeon may perform a variety of other procedures such as:

  • Salpingo-oophorectomy
  • Bilateral salpingo oophorectomy
  • Hysterectomy
  • Omentectomy

In some cases, you may need chemotherapy after surgical debulking. 

Recovery from surgical debulking

Surgical debulking is a major surgery, so you may stay in the hospital for up to a week after the procedure. Most patients can return to their normal activity level within six to eight weeks.

Call your doctor right away if you experience any severe or abnormal side effects after the procedure. 

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