Debulking, also known as cytoreduction surgery, is a surgery where the goal is to reduce the amount of cancer in the body. The surgeon removes as much of the cancer as possible. A doctor may recommend this surgery when ovarian cancer has spread throughout the abdomen. If a patient has a debulking surgery and cancer has spread to the colon, the patient may need to have part of the colon removed as well. Most of the time, the colon can be reattached during this surgery, but the patient may need a colostomy. A colostomy means that the surgeon diverts a piece of the bowel through the abdomen to allow the remaining intestines to heal. The patient’s stool will then drain into a pouch. This is usually temporary. Later on, it may be reversed by another surgery.
Debulking can also be done after some initial chemotherapy used as a first step to shrink a tumor before the main treatment, called neoadjuvant chemotherapy, is given. This is called interim debulking. Usually, cytoreductive surgery is done first to remove as much tumor as possible. Then, chemotherapy can be given. Some patients, especially those with extensive disease, older patients, and those with multiple medical problems, may need a different treatment strategy.
Northwell Health is a leading cancer center with a very active ovarian cancer program, so its surgeons have a high level of expertise.