Since the last two decades, the feasibility of fertility-sparing surgery (FSS) in early-stage epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) has been explored by several teams and is reconsidered in this systematic review undertaken using the PRISMA guidelines. Borderline ovarian tumours and non-EOCs were excluded. This review comprises 1150 patients and 139 relapsing patients reported by 21 teams. This conservative treatment can be safely carried out for stage IA and IC grade 1 and 2 disease and stage IC1 according to the new FIGO staging system. Nevertheless, the number of patients reported with grade 2 disease is too small to definitively confirm whether FSS is safe in this subgroup. For patients with 'less favourable' prognostic factors (grade 3 or stage IC3 disease), the safety of FSS could not be confirmed, but patients should be informed that radical treatment probably may not necessarily improve their oncological outcome, because the poorest survival observed could be related to the natural history of the disease itself and not specifically to the use of conservative therapy. FSS could probably be considered in stage I clear-cell tumours but should remain contraindicated for stage II/III disease (whatever the histologic subtype). As the disease stage and the histologic data (tumour type and grade) are crucial to patient selection for this treatment, this implies careful and mandatory complete surgical staging surgery in this context and a pathological analysis (or review) of the tumour by an expert pathologist.
Keywords: conservative treatment; early stage; epithelial ovarian cancer; fertility-sparing surgery; recurrence; survival.
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