Early cervical carcinoma: the natural history of lymph node involvement redefined on the basis of thorough parametrectomy and giant section study

Cancer. 2000 May 15;88(10):2267-74.


Background: Although parametrectomy is the most difficult step in the surgical treatment of cervical carcinoma and is the main cause of postoperative complications, little attention has been given to the patterns of parametrial spread.

Methods: Sixty-nine patients with previously untreated cervical carcinoma (Fédération Internationale de Gynécologie et d'Obstétrique [FIGO] Stage IB1, 49 patients [71%]; Stage IB2, 8 patients [12%]; and Stage IIA, 12 patients [17%]; squamous, 59 patients [86%]; and adenocarcinoma, 10 patients [14%]) underwent radical hysterectomy and pelvic +/- aortic lymphadenectomy. Hysterectomy specimens were processed with the giant section technique. To obtain a thorough three-dimensional assessment of the paracervical tissue, both the superficial and deep layers of the cervicovesical ligament (anterior parametrium) and the uterosacral ligament (posterior parametrium) were separated from the uterus and submitted for pathologic evaluation. After resection of the lateral parametrium with hemoclips, the lympho-fatty tissue remaining around the pudendal vessels was removed carefully and referred to as "the distal part of the lateral parametrium."

Results: When analyzing all the parametria, lymph nodes were present in 64 patients (93%). Clinically undetected parametrial involvement was found by pathologic examination in 15 Stage IB1 patients (31%), 5 Stage IB2 patients (63%), and 7 Stage IIA patients (58%). Metastases were found in the cardinal, cervicovesical, and sacrouterine ligaments and principally were comprised of lymph node and vascular space invasion. Twenty-five patients (36%) had pelvic lymph node metastases whereas concomitant parametrial involvement was observed in all patients. The overall 5-year survival was 91%, being higher for parametria and lymph node negative patients (100%) than for those with lymph node and/or parametrial metastases (78%).

Conclusions: A three-dimensional pathologic assessment showed that subclinical parametrial spreading of the so-called "early" tumors (Stage IB-IIA) occurred in approximately 30-60% of these patients, and metastasis to the pelvic lymph nodes always was associated with parametrial disease. A better understanding of the patterns of parametrial diffusion will improve knowledge of the natural history of cervical carcinoma and in the future may influence the treatment of these patients. Furthermore, pathologic assessment of cervical carcinoma should be modified to evaluate correctly the parametrial status of each patient. The current routine pathologic evaluation of the parametria makes it very difficult to detect lymph node metastases and tumor emboli.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hysterectomy*
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / surgery
  • Uterus / pathology*