Better late than never: Brachytherapy is more important than timing in treatment of locally advanced cervical cancer

Gynecol Oncol. 2022 Feb;164(2):348-356. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2021.11.015. Epub 2021 Dec 3.


Purpose: To evaluate the utilization of brachytherapy and duration of treatment on overall survival for locally advanced cervical cancer.

Methods: The National Cancer Database (NCDB) was queried to identify stage II-IVA cervical cancer patients diagnosed in the United States between 2004 and 2015 who were treated with definitive chemoradiation therapy. We defined standard of care (SOC) treatment as receiving external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and concurrent chemotherapy, brachytherapy (BT), and completing treatment within 8 weeks, and compared SOC treatment to non-SOC. The primary outcome was overall survival (OS). We also evaluated the effect of sociodemographic and clinical variables on receiving SOC.

Results: We identified 10,172 women with locally advanced cervical cancer primarily treated with chemotherapy and concurrent EBRT of which 6047 (59.4%) patients received brachytherapy, and only 2978 (29.3%) completed treatment within 8 weeks (SOC). Receipt of SOC was associated with significantly improved overall survival (median OS 131.0 mos vs 95.5 mos, 78.1 mos, 49.2 mos; p < 0.0001). Furthemore, in patients whose treatment extended beyond 8 weeks, brachytherapy was still associated with an improved survival (median OS 95.5 vs 49.2 mos, p < 0.0001). More advanced stage, Non-Hispanic Black race, lower income, lack of insurance or government insurance, less education, and rural residence were associated with decreased likelihood of receiving SOC.

Conclusions: Completing standard of care concurrent chemoradiation therapy and brachytherapy in the recommended 8 weeks was associated with a superior overall survival. Patients who received brachytherapy boost show superior survival to patients receiving EBRT alone, regardless of treatment duration. Disparities in care for vulnerable populations highlight the challenges and importance of care coordination for patients with cervical cancer.

Keywords: Brachytherapy; Cervical cancer; Chemoradiation; Healthcare disparities; Locally advanced cervical cancer; Standard of care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma / radiotherapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Brachytherapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Duration of Therapy*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Standard of Care
  • Time Factors
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • White People / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult