Sometimes, the presence and the extent of ovarian cancer can be confirmed only by open surgery. If exploratory surgery is performed and cancer is found, the surgeon will treat the cancer at the same time by removing as much of the tumor as possible.

Your surgeon will:

  • Confirm an ovarian cancer diagnosis.Remove or reduce the size of tumors by debulking them.
  • Examine all abdominal organs for signs of cancer.
  • Biopsy or take tissue samples from other areas of the abdomen.
  • Determine how far the cancer has spread in a process called staging.
A laparotomy requires a hospital stay. What to expect with in-patient surgery will provide you with the information you'll need before and after your surgery. 
The procedure
The surgeon cuts through the superficial layers of skin, subcutaneous fat, muscles and abdominal cavity. Retractors hold the incision open.
  • The surgeon then looks for any signs of cancer.
  • Biopsies or tissue samples may be taken for testing. 

If a tumor is found your surgeon will:

  • Remove the entire tumor, if advisable.
  • A portion of the tumor may be removed to debulk the mass.  Debulking makes the tumor more sensitive to chemotherapy.
  • A pelvic washing may be performed.  A sterile fluid is washed around the abdominal organs and withdrawn. The fluid is analyzed for the presence of abnormal cells, which may indicate that the cancer has begun to spread.
  • The organs and related structures are returned to their normal anatomical position.
  • The incision will be stitched closed. The layers of the abdominal wall are sutured in reverse order, and the skin incision closed with sutures or staples.