Purpose: Tumor size estimated by pelvic examination (PE) is an important prognostic factor in cervical cancer treated with radiation therapy (RT). Recent histologic correlation studies also showed that magnetic resonance (MR) imaging provides highly accurate measurements of the actual tumor volume. The purpose of this study was to: (a) compare the accuracy of PE and MR in predicting outcome, and (b) correlate tumor measurements by PE versus MR.
Methods and materials: Tumor measurements were performed prospectively in 43 patients with advanced cervical cancer. MR and PE were performed at the same time intervals: (a) at the start of RT, (b) after 20-24 Gy/2-2.5 weeks, (c) after 40-50 Gy/4-5 weeks, and (d) at follow-up (1-2 months after RT completion). PE measured tumor diameters in anteroposterior, lateral, and craniocaudal direction, and PE-derived tumor size was computed as maximum diameter, average diameter, and ellipsoid volume. MR-derived tumor size was calculated by summation of the tumor areas in each section and multiplication by the section thickness. Tumor regression during RT was calculated for each method as percentage of initial volume. The measurements were correlated with local failure and disease-free survival. Median follow-up was 29 months (range: 9-56 months).
Results: Prediction of local control: Overall, tumor regression rate (rapid versus slow) was more precise than the initial tumor size in the prediction of outcome. MR provided a more accurate and earlier prediction of local control (at 2-2.5 weeks, and at 4-5 weeks of RT) than PE (only at follow-up). Based on the initial tumor size, MR was also better than PE in predicting disease-free survival and local control, particularly in large (> or = 100 cm3) tumors. Size correlation: Tumor size (maximum diameter, average diameter, volume) by PE and MR did not correlate well (r = 0.51, 0.61, and 0.58, respectively). When using MR measurements as a reference, PE tended to overestimate intermediate-size (40-99 cm3) tumors.
Conclusion: This preliminary study suggests that increased precision of tumor volume measurement leads to more accurate and earlier prediction of outcome in cervical cancer. MR tumor volumetry may be useful as an adjunct to PE in selected cases, and holds the potential to impact therapeutic decision-making.