What is the role of laparoscopy in the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer?

Updated: Aug 10, 2020
  • Author: Andrew E Green, MD; Chief Editor: Yukio Sonoda, MD  more...
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According to guidelines developed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, laparoscopy may be used for diagnostic purposes in a patient at low risk for ovarian cancer and to remove cystic masses, provided that all the following criteria are met [39] :

  • The mass is 10 cm or smaller as viewed by a sonogram
  • The mass has a distinct border and no solid parts
  • No associated ascites is present
  • The serum CA-125 level is normal (< 35 U/mL)
  • The patient has no family history of ovarian cancer

If a chance exists that ovarian cancer may be present, surgery is best arranged in conjunction with a specialist in gynecologic cancer surgery. The patient can then undergo all necessary surgery for her cancer during a single anesthetic session, without delay.

As part of initial treatment of epithelial ovarian cancer, laparoscopic surgery may be performed for early-stage disease when no disease is visible outside of the ovaries. Its use in more advanced disease, when spread is visible outside the ovaries, is more limited due to the scope of cytoreductive surgery necessary and the risk of port-site recurrence. Laparoscopy also has a role in second-look inspection and in the staging of apparently early-stage disease found by chance during another surgery.

The NCCN ovarian cancer guidelines state that minimally invasive surgery may be used by an experienced surgeon in selected patients to achieve surgical staging and debulking. In addition, the NCCN considers that minimally invasive surgery may be useful when evaluating whether maximum cytoreduction can be achieved in patients with newly diagnosed or recurrent ovarian cancer. [45]

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