Purpose: This retrospective analysis aims to report on the comparative outcome of cervical cancer patients treated with low dose rate (LDR) and high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy.
Methods and materials: From 1989 to 1995, 190 patients were treated with low dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy (LDR group) and from 1994 to 2001, 118 patients were treated with high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy (HDR group). FIGO stage distribution for the LDR group was Stage I: 6.3%; Stage II: 57.4%; and Stage III: 36.3% and for the HDR group Stage I: 9.3%; Stage II: 43.2%; and Stage III: 47.4%. All patients were treated with telecobalt external-beam radiotherapy (EBR). Median doses of LDR brachytherapy at Point A were 40 Gy and 50 Gy for patients treated with 1 and 2 implants, respectively. All patients from the HDR group were treated with 24 Gy in 4 fractions of 6 Gy to Point A. Survival, disease-free survival, local control, and late complications at 5 years, were endpoints compared for both groups.
Results: Median follow-up time for LDR and HDR groups was 70 months (range, 8-127 months) and 33 months (range, 4-117 months), respectively. For all stages combined, overall survival, disease-free survival, and local control at 5 years were better in the LDR group (69% vs. 55%, p = 0.007; 73% vs. 56%, p = 0.002; and 74% vs. 65%; p = 0.04, respectively). For clinical Stages I and II, no differences was seen in overall survival, disease-free survival, and local control at 5 years between the two groups. For clinical Stage III, overall survival and disease-free survival at 5 years were better in the LDR group than in the HDR group (46% vs. 36%, p = 0.04 and 49% vs. 37%, p = 0.03, respectively), and local control was marginally higher in the LDR group than in the HDR group (58% vs. 50%, p = 0.19). The 5-year probability of rectal complications was higher in the LDR group than in the HDR group (16% vs. 8%, p = 0.03) and 5-year probability of small bowel and urinary complications was not statistically different between the the LDR group and the HDR group (4.6% vs. 8.9%, p = 0.17 and 6% vs. 3%, p = 0.13, respectively).
Conclusions: This comparative series suggests similar outcome for Stages I and II patients treated with either HDR or LDR brachytherapy. Lower overall and disease-free survival and marginally lower local control were observed for Stage III patients treated with HDR brachytherapy. Less late rectal complications were observed in the HDR group patients. These findings were probably the result of the relatively low HDR brachytherapy dose delivered at Point A.