Objective: At present, cervical cancer remains the only gynecologic tumor, which is staged by clinical examination according to FIGO. This is associated with a high percentage of over- and understaging of tumor extent. With the operative, especially laparoscopic staging, exact information about intraabdominal tumor spread, lymph node metastases, and involvement of adjacent organs is possible. However, the advantage of operative staging is still discussed controversially. The aim of this study is to describe the laparoscopic transperitoneal staging procedure in patients with cervical cancer and their oncologic outcome after primary chemoradiation.
Methods: From November 1994 to October 2003, 456 consecutive patients with histologically confirmed primary cervical cancer were admitted to the Department of Gynecology of the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany. Out of these, 84 patients with locally advanced tumor (tumor size>or=4 cm) and/or lymph node involvement and/or tumor infiltration to bladder or rectum were selected by a standardized laparoscopic staging procedure for primary chemoradiation. Data of surgery, chemoradiation, and follow-up were analyzed retrospectively for these patients.
Results: The mean age of the patients was 54 years (26-80), and the mean body-mass-index was 24.8 (17.9-42.2). Preoperative clinical evaluation showed a stage distribution according to FIGO with stage IB1 in 15.5%, IB2 in 15.5%, IIA in 8.3%, IIB in 23.8%, IIIA in 8.3%, IIIB in 21.4%, IVA in 6%, and IVB in 1.2%. In 15 out of 84 (17.8%) patients, intraabdominal tumor spread was diagnosed by laparascopy. In 24 out of 84 (28.5%) patients, invasion of bladder and/or rectum was proven histologically after biopsy. In 60 out of 84 (71%) patients, lymph node metastases were confirmed histologically. In 2 out of 13 patients with FIGO-stage Ib1, skip metastases in infrarenal paraaortic lymph nodes were seen. Removal of more than 5 pelvic and/or more than 5 positive paraaortic lymph nodes was associated with significant improvement of overall survival. According to the histological findings following laparoscopic staging in 36 out of 84 (43%) patients, a higher tumor stage was diagnosed. If tumor involvement of lymph nodes is also included, an upstaging in 73/84 (87%) of patients has to be noted down. Downstaging was not necessary in any patient following laparoscopic evaluation.
Conclusion: Only operative staging gives exact information about tumor extension in patients with locally advanced and/or nodal positive cervical cancer and allows individual treatment planning. This can be done successfully by a transperitoneal laparoscopic approach without serious adverse effects delaying chemoradiation. Debulking of tumor-involved lymph nodes significantly improves overall survival and should be performed prior to primary chemoradiation. Laparoscopic staging should be the basis for all treatment studies in order to group patients according to true tumor extent.