Palliative radiotherapy for cervical carcinoma, a systematic review

Radiother Oncol. 2011 Mar;98(3):287-91. doi: 10.1016/j.radonc.2011.01.009.


Purpose: Worldwide, particularly in developing countries, many women present with advanced stage cervical cancer for which palliative radiotherapy is the treatment of choice or may be the only available treatment. The purpose of this study was to determine from the literature the optimal palliative radiation scheme for the treatment of advanced cervical cancer.

Design: A systematic literature review up to January 2010 was performed in Medline, Embase, the Cochrane database, CinHL and Google Scholar using a combination of synonyms for: cervical cancer, palliative treatment and radiation therapy. No limitations were applied for language or study types. For included papers data were extracted and described.

Results: Only eight papers were identified and none compared the results of different fractionation schemes. Most used observational retrospective study design with considerable sources of bias. No studies used validated endpoints for symptom relief nor did they include measures of the quality of life. Several papers described the experience with single or multiple monthly 10Gy doses or with a higher total dose delivered in 2-4 fractions within 48 h to 1 week. Studies report varying amounts of relief from bleeding. The effect on other symptoms such as pain and discharge is not evaluable. Acute and late toxicity is poorly documented.

Conclusion: There is a dearth of information in the current literature to guide selection of an optimal palliative radiation schedule for treatment of patients with advanced cervical cancer. Based on this review and information from other solid tumors, there is no evidence to support the common belief that better and longer palliation is achieved with a high dose delivered in multiple smaller fractions. There is a clear need for comparative studies of different radiation fractionation schedules in order to identify an optimal palliative radiation scheme. These studies require the use of validated endpoints to measure specific symptom relief as well as accompanying quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / radiotherapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / radiotherapy*