Up to one-third of women with ovarian cancer in the United States do not receive surgical care from a gynecologic oncologist specialist despite guideline recommendations. We aim to investigate the impact of rurality on receiving surgical care from a specialist, referral to a specialist, and specialist surgery after referral, and the consequences of specialist care.
We utilized a retrospective cohort created through an extension of standard cancer surveillance in three Midwestern states. Multivariable adjusted logistic regression was utilized to assess gynecologic oncologist treatment of women 18-89 years old, who were diagnosed with primary, histologically confirmed, malignant ovarian cancer in 2010-2012 in Kansas, Missouri and Iowa by rurality.
Rural women were significantly less likely to receive surgical care from a gynecologic oncologist specialist (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 0.37, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.24-0.58) and referral to a specialist (OR 0.37, 95% CI 0.23-0.59) compared to urban women. There was no significant difference in specialist surgery after a referral (OR 0.56, 95% CI 0.26-1.20). Rural women treated surgically by a gynecologic oncologist versus non-specialist were more likely to receive cytoreduction and more complete tumor removal to ≤1 cm.
There is a large rural-urban difference in receipt of ovarian cancer surgery from a gynecologic oncologist specialist (versus a non-specialist). Disparities in referral rates contribute to the rural-urban difference. Further research will help define the causes of referral disparities, as well as promising strategies to address them.

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