The prognosis for patients with cervical cancer is markedly affected by the extent of disease at the time of diagnosis. A vast majority (>90%) of these cases can and should be detected early through the use of the Pap test and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing; however, the current death rate is far higher than it should be, which reflects that, even today, the Pap test and HPV testing are not done on approximately 33% of eligible women. Clinical stage, however, as a prognostic factor must be supplemented by several gross and microscopic pathologic findings in surgically treated patients. These include: volume and grade of tumor, histologic type, lymphatic spread, and vascular invasion.
In a large, surgicopathologic staging study of patients with clinical stage IB disease reported by the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) (GOG-49), the factors that predicted most prominently for lymph node metastases and a decrease in disease-free survival were capillary-lymphatic space involvement by tumor, increasing tumor size, and increasing depth of stromal invasion, with the latter being most important and reproducible.[3,4] In a study of 1,028 patients treated with radical surgery, survival rates correlated more consistently with tumor volume (as determined by precise volumetry of the tumor) than clinical or histologic stage.
A multivariate analysis of prognostic variables in 626 patients with locally advanced disease (primarily stages II, III, and IV) studied by the GOG identified several variables that were significant for progression-free interval and survival:
Periaortic and pelvic lymph node status.
The study confirmed the overriding importance of positive periaortic nodes and suggested further evaluation of these nodes in locally advanced cervical cancer. The status of the pelvic nodes was important only if the periaortic nodes were negative. This was also true for tumor size.
In a large series of cervical cancer patients treated by radiation therapy, the incidence of distant metastases (most frequently to lung, abdominal cavity, liver, and gastrointestinal tract) was shown to increase as the stage of disease increased, from 3% in stage IA to 75% in stage IVA. A multivariate analysis of factors influencing the incidence of distant metastases showed stage, endometrial extension of tumor, and pelvic tumor control to be significant indicators of distant dissemination.