The committee identified that ovarian cancer patients regularly cite the "little big things" as significant burdens. The little big things in question are scheduling, wait times, pharmacy transportation, parking, finances, insurance and discharge. The committee also cited limited time with physicians as a major hurdle in providing adequate care to patients, especially when many patients reported that human contact was a comfort to them throughout their treatment.
The additional effect of this limited physician time is that patients aren't able to ask and receive an answer to every question they have regarding the treatment, which is problematic when new, complex treatment options are involved and the patient has limited experience with them.
"The care for ovarian cancer patients is multidisciplinary and complex," Temkin said.
The committee asserted that all ovarian cancer patients should "receive education on ovarian cancer, staging, prognosis, possible treatment side effects, and response expectations before therapy initiation by a multidisciplinary cancer care team member."
Additionally, these patients should have access to a member of this multidisciplinary team who can answer questions and be allowed to participate in shared decision-making regarding their care plan.
Currently, routine screening for people at average or high risk of developing ovarian cancer is not recommended because the risks outweigh the benefits. A number of risk factors—including age, weight, hormone therapy and family history—are associated with ovarian cancer, yet the implementation of risk-reducing surgery is still a challenge for many healthcare systems.
"Cancer centers are not, historically, centered around gynecology," Temkin said. "Even though there are 110,000 patients a year diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer, ovarian cancer is still a relatively rare disease. Without special accommodations for the severity of this disease, some patients may slip through the cracks."