Poor outcome of treatment in advanced cervix carcinoma has been shown to be associated with poor oxygenation of the primary tumour. Hypoxia may cause radiation resistance and promote lymph-node metastasis. The purpose of the study reported here was to investigate whether hypoxia-induced treatment failure in advanced cervix carcinoma is primarily a result of hypoxia-induced radiation resistance or the presence of hypoxia-induced lymph-node metastases at the start of treatment. Thirty-two patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the uterine cervix were included in the study. Radiation therapy was given with curative intent as combined external irradiation and endocavitary brachytherapy. The oxygenation status of the primary tumour was measured prior to treatment using the Eppendorf PO2 Histograph. Pelvic and para-aortal lymph-node metastases were detected by magnetic resonance imaging at the time of initial diagnosis. The primary tumours of the patients with metastases (n = 18) were significantly more poorly oxygenated than those of the patients without metastases (n = 14). Multivariate Cox regression analyses involving biological and clinical parameters identified the tumour subvolume having PO2 values below 5 mmHg (HSV (pO2 < 5 mmHg) as the only significant, independent prognostic factor for locoregional control, disease-free survival and overall survival. The probabilities of locoregional control, disease-free survival and overall survival were significantly lower for the patients with HSV (PO2 < 5 mmHg) above the median value than for those with HSV (PO2 < 5 mmHg) below the median value. On the other hand, the outcome of treatment was not significantly different for the patients with metastases and the patients without metastases at the start of treatment, irrespective of clinical end-point. Consequently, treatment failure was primarily a result of hypoxia-induced radiation resistance rather than hypoxia-induced lymph-node metastasis, suggesting that novel treatment strategies aiming at improving tumour oxygenation or enhancing the radiation sensitivity of hypoxic tumour cells may prove beneficial in attempts to improve the radiation therapy of advanced cervix carcinoma.