Surgery for Ovarian Cancer

Surgery is often the first line of treatment for ovarian cancer patients. For patients with early-stage cancers, surgery may be the only treatment necessary.

There are a number of surgical procedures that can be used to treat ovarian cancer. Washington University gynecologic oncologists are skilled surgeons who care for a high volume of ovarian cancer patients. They have special expertise in procedures to remove advanced ovarian tumors from the abdomen.

Ovary removal

If the cancer is limited to the ovary, your physicians may be able to control it by taking out the ovary and fallopian tube. This procedure is called a salpingo-oophorectomy. It can be performed on one or both ovaries, depending on the extent of your cancer.

Salpingo-oophorectomies may be conducted laparoscopically/robotically, through small incisions, or through an open incision. Your physicians will decide which type of procedure would work best for you.

Most patients recover quickly following ovary removal surgery. Some patients will not need to spend time in the hospital and can be discharged to home the same day.

Total hysterectomy

If the cancer has spread beyond the ovaries, you may require a total hysterectomy as well as removal of one or bother ovaries. During a total hysterectomy, the surgeons remove the uterus and the cervix. There are a number of ways to do this. If the procedure is being performed laparoscopically/robotically, then the patient will only need several small incisions. Other times, the surgeon will have to make a larger incision in the abdomen to perform the procedure safely and effectively.

Your recovery time will depend on the type of procedure your surgeon conducts. Patients who undergo laparoscopic or minimally invasive procedures typically recover more quickly than patients who undergo more traditional, open procedures. Your surgeon will choose the best approach for you, your body and your condition.


The omentum is a layer of tissue covering the organs in the abdomen, including the colon and the stomach. It consists of a delicate network of blood vessels, lymph nodes, lymph vessels and nerves. Sometimes, ovarian cancer can spread to the omentum.

An omentectomy is a procedure to remove the omentum.  Your surgeon may perform an omentectomy at the same time as an oophorectomy or hysterectomy, depending on how far the cancer has spread.

Cytoreductive surgery

Ideally, every ovarian cancer patient will require treatment with both surgery and chemotherapy. Your gynecologic oncologist will need to decide the best timing of surgery based on the extent of your disease as well as your other medical conditions. Cytoreductive surgery, or tumor debulking, is a procedure that surgeons at Siteman helped pioneer and refine. Since the goal of cytoreductive surgery is to remove all the tumor that is visible to the naked eye, sometimes this is not feasible and then giving chemotherapy first is beneficial to the patient. Typically patients receive 3 to 4 cycles of chemotherapy and then after radiographic imaging undergo a cytoreductive surgery followed by additional chemotherapy.