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The British study was led by Sean Kehoe, professor of gynecological cancer at the University of Birmingham, and included 550 patients. About half underwent the standard treatment of surgery followed by six cycles of chemotherapy, while the other half had three cycles of chemotherapy before their surgery.
The risk of complications and death within 28 days after surgery was lower among those who had chemotherapy before surgery, Kehoe's team found. They also had fewer side effects, spent less time in the hospital, and experienced a better quality of life, the findings showed.
The study was funded by Cancer Research U.K. and was published May 19 in The Lancet.
"Whether to have chemotherapy before major surgery for ovarian cancer has always been a dilemma for women and their surgeons," Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research U.K., said in a news release from the organization.
"Thanks to this study, we can say that having chemotherapy first makes the surgery safer, the stay in hospital shorter, and women's quality of life better," he said.
Study lead author Kehoe agreed. "The trial showed that shrinking the tumor [with chemotherapy] before surgery reduced side effects and hospital stay -- meaning improved quality of life, without compromising survival, which is better for patients," he said in the news release.
According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer remains one of the deadliest cancer types. The society estimates that in 2015, more than 21,000 American women will be diagnosed with the disease, and more than 14,000 women will die from it. Ovarian cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer of women overall, the group says.
-- Robert Preidt
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