Background: A tumor-free resection margin of at least 8 mm is considered state of the art in vulvar cancer. This standard is based on small and heterogeneous patient cohorts, and its implementation can result in mutilation.
Methods: One hundred two consecutive patients with primary squamous cell vulvar cancer were analyzed. All patients received resection of the primary tumor and the inguinofemoral lymph nodes via three separate incisions, resulting in complete tumor resection. Median follow-up was 31 months. Minimal margin distances were pathologically determined in all dimensions after fixation.
Results: Median age of the patients was 62 years; 38.2% had International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) stage I, 17.6% stage II, 24.4% stage III, and 8.8% stage IV disease. The median minimal resection margin was 5 mm (range 0.5-25 mm). Sixteen patients (15.6%) developed disease recurrence, of whom 10 (62.5%) at the vulva. Margin distance had no significant impact on disease-free survival when analyzed continuously (p = 0.388). When cases were divided into three subgroups of <3 mm (28.4%), ≥3 to <8 mm (42.2%), and ≥8 mm (29.4%) resection margin, neither univariate nor multivariate analysis revealed a difference in disease-free survival. There was no significant difference between any of the subgroups regarding tumor stages and adjuvant radiotherapy of the vulva. These results were independent of the direction of the minimal margin distance and consistent when only vulvar recurrences were analyzed.
Conclusions: A tumor-free resection margin is essential for locoregional control in vulvar cancer. However, in this large, single-center study, we could not demonstrate any prognostic impact of pathological margin distance.