Chemoradiation therapy is deemed the standard treatment by many North American and European teams for treatment of locally advanced cervical cancer. The prevalence of para-aortic nodal metastasis in these tumours is 10-25%. PET (with or without CT) is the most accurate imaging modality to assess extrapelvic disease in such tumours. The true-positive rate of PET is high, suggesting that surgical staging is not necessary if uptake takes place in the para-aortic region. Nevertheless, false-negative results (in the para-aortic region) have been recorded in 12% of patients, rising to 22% in those with uptake during PET of the pelvic nodes. In such situations, laparoscopic surgical para-aortic staging still has an important role for detection of patients with occult para-aortic spread misdiagnosed on PET or PET-CT, allowing optimisation of treatment (extension of radiation therapy fields to include the para-aortic area). Complications of the laparoscopic procedure were noted in 0-7% of patients. Survival of individuals (missed by PET) with para-aortic nodal metastasis of 5 mm or less (and managed by extended field chemoradiation therapy) seems to be similar to survival of those without para-aortic spread, suggesting a positive therapeutic effect of the addition of staging surgery. Nevertheless, the effect on survival of potential delay of chemoradiation owing to use of PET and staging surgery, and acute and late complications of surgery followed by chemoradiation therapy (particularly in case of extended field chemoradiation to para-aortic area), need to be studied.
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