Upon discovery of lymph node metastasis during radical hysterectomy with pelvic lymphadenectomy in early-stage cervical cancer, the gynaecologist may pursue one of two treatment strategies: abandonment of surgery followed by primary (chemo)radiotherapy (PRT) or completion of radical hysterectomy, followed by adjuvant (chemo)radiotherapy (RHRT). Current guidelines recommend PRT over RHRT, as combined treatment is presumably associated with increased morbidity. However, this review of literature suggests there are no significant differences in survival and recurrence and total proportions of adverse events between treatment strategies. Additionally, both strategies are associated with varying types of adverse events, and affect quality of life and sexual functioning differently, both in the short and long term. Although total proportions of adverse events were comparable between treatment strategies, lower extremity lymphoedema was reported more often after RHRT and symptom experience (e.g. distress from bladder or bowel problems) and sexual dysfunction more often after PRT. As reporting of adverse events, quality of life and sexual functioning were not standardised across the articles included, and covariate adjustment was not conducted in most of the analyses, comparability of studies is hampered. Accumulating retrospective evidence suggests no major differences on oncological outcome and morbidity after PRT and RHRT for intraoperatively discovered lymph node metastasis in cervical cancer. However, conclusions should be considered cautiously, as all studies were of retrospective design with small sample sizes. Still, treatment strategies seem to affect adverse events, quality of life and sexual functioning in different ways, allowing room for shared decision-making and personalised treatment.
Keywords: Adverse events; Cervical cancer; Lymph node metastasis; Quality of life; Radiotherapy; Surgery.
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