The size of the primary tumor is an important prognostic factor and should be carefully evaluated in choosing optimal therapy. Survival and local control are better with unilateral rather than bilateral parametrial involvement. Patients who are surgically staged as part of a clinical trial and are found to have small volume para-aortic nodal disease and controllable pelvic disease may be cured with pelvic and para-aortic radiation therapy. If postoperative external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is planned following surgery, extraperitoneal lymph node sampling is associated with fewer radiation-induced complications than a transperitoneal approach. The resection of macroscopically involved pelvic nodes may improve rates of local control with postoperative radiation therapy. Treatment of patients with unresected periaortic nodes with extended-field radiation therapy leads to long-term disease control in those patients with low volume (<2 cm) nodal disease below L3. A single study (RTOG-7920) showed a survival advantage in patients who received radiation therapy to para-aortic nodes without histologic evidence of disease. Toxic effects are greater with para-aortic radiation than with pelvic radiation alone but were mostly confined to patients with prior abdominopelvic surgery. Patients who underwent extraperitoneal lymph node sampling had fewer bowel complications than those who had transperitoneal lymph node sampling.[4,6,8]
Five randomized, phase III trials have shown an overall survival advantage for cisplatin-based therapy given concurrently with radiation therapy, [9,10,11,12,13,14,15] while one trial examining this regimen demonstrated no benefit. The patient populations in these studies included women with Féderation Internationale de Gynécologie et d'Obstétrique (FIGO) stages IB2 to IVA cervical cancer treated with primary radiation therapy, and women with FIGO stages I to IIA disease who, at the time of primary surgery, were found to have poor prognostic factors, which included the following:
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Although the positive trials vary somewhat in terms of the stage of disease, dose of radiation, and schedule of cisplatin and radiation, the trials demonstrated significant survival benefit for this combined approach. The risk of death from cervical cancer was decreased by 30% to 50% with the use of concurrent chemoradiation therapy. Based on these results, strong consideration should be given to the incorporation of concurrent cisplatin-based chemotherapy with radiation therapy in women who require radiation therapy for treatment of cervical cancer.[9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17]