Pretreatment Retroperitoneal Para-aortic Lymph Node Staging in Advanced Cervical Cancer: A Review

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The aims of this study were to evaluate the safety and impact of pretreatment surgical para-aortic lymph node staging (PALNS) in advanced cervical cancer (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics stage IB2-IVA) and to evaluate the preoperative imaging of PALNs.


We searched in PubMed and the Cochrane Library to identify data investigating the role of surgical PALNS. Selection criteria included English-language and advanced-stage cervical cancer (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics stage IB2-IVA) articles.


Twenty-two articles were included. Para-aortic lymph node metastases were present in 18% (range, 8%–42%) of all patients with cervical cancer stage IB to IVA. The proportions of positive para-aortic nodes on histological analysis with suspicious para-aortic nodes on imaging (positive predictive value) were 20% to 66%, 0% to 27%, 86% to 100%, and 50% to 75% for computed tomographic (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, positron emission tomography (PET), and PET-CT, respectively. The negative predictive values of the imaging techniques were 53% to 92% for CT scan, 75% to 91% for MRI, 87% to 94% for PET, and 83% to 92% for PET-CT. The proportions of histologically proven PALN metastasis with normal findings on imaging were 9% to 35% for CT scan and MRI, 4% to 11% for PET, and 6% to 15% for PET-CT. The mean complication rate of PALNS is 9%, with a range of 4% to 24%, with lymphocysts being the most common complication.


Pretreatment surgical PALN dissection or sampling is feasible, with low complication rates and short delay in starting treatment. Pretreatment PET or PET-CT is the most accurate imaging method in detecting PALN metastases but has limitations detecting microscopic tumor volumes. Even with normal findings on PET-CT, PALN metastases are present in 4% to 15% of patients. Positive PALNs in stage IB2 to IVA cervical cancer will lead to modification of treatment and may lead to better overall and disease-free survival.

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