What is an omentectomy??


“What is an omentectomy?” I asked as I read the surgical report. A few days before, I had learned that I had ovarian cancer, and my omentum was removed as part of cancer staging surgery, a routine procedure with ovarian cancer, because, the omentum, often referred to as the “abdomen’s policeman”, can collect and “hide” cancer cells. Ovarian cancer is one of the less common cancers, and one of the scarier ones. The odds of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer are only 1 in 108 (https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer/about/key-statistics.html). When diagnosed at stage I or II the survival rate is high; however, when diagnosed at Stage III or IV, the survival rate statistics are scary. Thankfully, my cancer was diagnosed at stage II; I completed six cycles of chemo, and I have an excellent prognosis.

Post-surgery, I had digestive issues which took 18 months and three GI doctors to figure out; along the way I tried various allergy elimination diets including dairy and FODMAP (I had started actively avoiding wheat/gluten in 2010, four years before my cancer diagnosis, so that was not in the mix). At one point I was diagnosed with IBS, and given a prescription for IBS, which made my symptoms significantly worse.

With the help of a wonderful physical therapist, an insightful nutritionist, and a thorough GI doctor, I have learned that my digestive issues are related to the removal of my omentum (and the removal of 35 lymph nodes, no doubt compounds the situation). Prior to my surgery, I had never heard of the omentum. However, recently I have learned quite a bit about this “quirky” organ.

I realize that most ovarian cancer survivors are absorbed in time-consuming and stressful treatment protocols and concerned about survival in general. Having bandwidth to be concerned about digestive issues is a privilege reserved for those of us who were fortunate enough to have the disease discovered at an early stage. I have spoken with a couple of other Stage I/II ovarian cancer survivors who have also experienced digestive issues. And I have learned that the omentum is routinely removed with some other cancers, in addition to ovarian cancer. These two facts have made me wonder if other cancer survivors are also experiencing symptoms related to the removal of their omentum.

In the past 18 months, I have learned a lot about managing my specific symptoms, and I have learned a lot about the omentum, including the fact that this organ has not been studied extensively.

Thus, I launch this blog, with the hope of improving the lives of other cancer survivors living without an omentum by:

  • Drawing attention to this under-studied organ;

  • Building a community of cancer survivors living without an omentum; and

  • Inspiring researchers to study this “quirky” organ

Thank you for reading and please let me know your questions, and suggestions.

- Meg

©2020 by The Omentum Project.

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