Primary surgery versus primary radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy for early adenocarcinoma of the uterine cervix

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Jan 20;(1):CD006248. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006248.pub2.


Background: For early squamous cell carcinoma of the uterine cervix, the outcome is similar after either primary surgery or primary radiotherapy. There are reports that this is not the case for early adenocarcinoma (AC) of the uterine cervix: some studies have reported that the outcome is better after primary surgery. There are no systematic reviews about surgery versus chemoradiation in the treatment of cervical cancer.

Objectives: The objectives of this review were to compare the effectiveness and safety of primary surgery for early stage AC of the uterine cervix with primary radiotherapy or chemoradiation.

Search strategy: We searched Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) Issue 3, 2009, MEDLINE (1950 to July week 5, 2009), EMBASE (1980 to week 32, 2009) and we also searched the related articles feature of PubMed and the Web of Science. We also checked the reference lists of articles.

Selection criteria: Studies of treatment of patients with early AC of the uterine cervix were included. Treatment included surgery, surgery followed by radiotherapy, radiotherapy and chemoradiation.

Data collection and analysis: Forty-three studies were selected by the search strategy and thirty studies were excluded. Twelve studies were considered for inclusion. Except for one randomised controlled trial (RCT), all other studies were retrospective cohort studies with variable methodological quality and had limitations of a retrospective study. Comparing the results from these retrospective studies was not possible due to diverging treatment strategies.

Main results: Analysis of a subgroup of one RCT showed that surgery for early cervical AC was better than RT. However, the majority of operated patients required adjuvant radiotherapy, which is associated with greater morbidity. Furthermore, the radiotherapy in this study was not optimal, and surgery was not compared to chemoradiation, which is currently recommended in most centres. Finally, modern imaging techniques, i.e. MR-imaging and PET-CT-scanning, allow better selection of patients and node negative patients can now be more easily identified for surgery, there by reducing the risk of 'double trouble' caused by surgery and adjuvant radiotherapy.

Authors' conclusions: We recommend surgery for early stage AC of the uterine cervix in carefully staged patients. Primary chemoradiation remains a second best alternative for patients unfit for surgery; chemoradiation is probably first choice in patients with (MRI or PET-CT-suspected) positive lymph nodes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma / radiotherapy*
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant / adverse effects
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / surgery*