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Lymph Node Spread in Cancer of the Uterus

Cancer of the Uterus can spread to the lymph nodes in the pelvis or para-aortic region (nodes in green on diagram on the left see node labels and more detailed)) Spread to the lymph nodes higher in the abdomen (around the aorta, so called para-aortic) is more serious than pelvic node spread. These nodes can sometimes be seen on CT scan but often require a surgical biopsy to confirm spread.

As noted in the table the risk is much higher if the cancer is grade 3 or involves the cervix or deep muscle. Involvement of the nodes makes the cancer a Stage IIIC. Patients with only pelvic node spread are given radiation and may have a 60-70% cure rate, With para-aortic nodes, if they are resected then radiated my have a 30-40% survival. (The best treatment (pelvic and nodal irradiation versus whole abdominal irradiation versus chemotherapy or a combination is still unsettled.) The more nodes removed at surgery the better the survival (GO HERE).

Lymph Node Spread by Risk Factor
Risk Factor Pelvic Nodes Para-aortic Nodes
Grade 1 3% 2%
Grade 2 9% 5%
Grade 3 18% 11%
Myometrial Invasion    
none/spfcl 1-5% 1-3%
middle 6% 1%
deep 25% 17%
fundus 8% 4%
isthmus/cervix 16% 14%
Vascular Invasion    
absent 7% 4%
present 23% 16%



Potential therapeutic role of para-aortic lymphadenectomy in node-positive endometrial cancer.

Mariani A, Webb MJ, Galli L, Podratz KC Gynecol Oncol 2000 Mar;76(3):348-56

Section of Gynecologic Surgery, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.

The aim of this study was to assess the potential therapeutic role of para-aortic lymphadenectomy (PAL) in high-risk patients with endometrial cancer. METHODS: We studied two groups of patients with endometrial cancer who underwent operation at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN) during the interval 1984 to 1993: (1) 137 patients at high risk for para-aortic lymph node involvement (myometrial invasion >50%, palpable positive pelvic nodes, or positive adnexae), excluding stage IV disease, and (2) 51 patients with positive nodes (pelvic or para-aortic), excluding stage IV disease. By our definition, PAL required removal of five or more para-aortic nodes. RESULTS: In both groups, no significant difference existed between patients who had PAL (PAL+) and those who did not (PAL-) in regard to clinical or pathologic variables, percentage irradiated, or surgical or radiation complications. Among the 137 high-risk patients, the 5-year progression-free survival was 62% and the 5-year overall survival was 71% for the PAL- group compared with 77 and 85%, respectively, for the PAL+ group (P = 0.12 and 0.06, respectively). For the 51 patients with positive nodes, the 5-year progression-free survival and 5-year overall survival for the PAL- group were 36 and 42% compared with 76 and 77% for the PAL+ group (P = 0.02 and 0.05, respectively). Lymph node recurrences were detected in 37% of the PAL- patients but in none of the PAL+ patients (P = 0.01). Multivariate analysis suggested that submission to PAL was a cogent predictor of progression-free survival (odds ratio = 0.25; P = 0.01) and overall survival (odds ratio = 0.23; P = 0.006). CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest a potential therapeutic role for formal PAL in endometrial cancer. Copyright 2000

FIGO stage IIIC endometrial carcinoma with metastases confined to pelvic lymph nodes: analysis of treatment outcomes, prognostic variables, and failure patterns following adjuvant radiation therapy.

Nelson G, Randall M, Sutton G, Moore D, Hurteau J, Look K Gynecol Oncol 1999 Nov;75(2):211-4

Department of Radiation Oncology, Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202, USA.

OBJECTIVES: This study was undertaken to evaluate the prognostic significance of isolated positive pelvic lymph nodes on survival and to analyze other prognostic variables, overall survival, and failure patterns in surgically staged endometrial carcinoma patients with positive pelvic lymph nodes and negative para-aortic lymph nodes following radiation therapy (RT). METHODS: Between January 1, 1987, and December 31, 1997, 782 women underwent primary treatment for uterine cancer at Indiana University Medical Center. Through a review of the medical records, we identified 58 patients with pathologic stage IIIA, 27 patients with pathologic stage IIIB, and 77 patients with pathologic stage IIIC endometrial carcinoma. Patients with pathologically positive or unsampled para-aortic lymph nodes and patients who received preoperative radiation therapy were excluded, leaving a study group of 17 patients with nodal metastases confined to pelvic lymph nodes. Thirteen patients received adjuvant pelvic RT using AP-PA or four-field technique. A median dose of 5040 cGy was delivered. Four patients received whole abdominal irradiation (WAI) delivering a median dose of 3000 cGy. Two patients received vaginal cuff boosts of 1000 and 3560 cGy to 0.5 cm from the vaginal surface mucosa via Cs-137 brachytherapy. Two patients also received adjuvant chemotherapy (cis-platinum and doxorubicin) and/or hormonal therapy (megestrol acetate). Disease-free and overall survivals were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method of statistical analysis and prognostic variables were analyzed using the log-rank test. RESULTS: With a median follow-up of 51 months the actuarial 5-year disease-free survival was 81% and the actuarial 2-year and 5-year overall survival rates were 81 and 72%, respectively.  CONCLUSION: Surgery followed by postoperative pelvic RT is a viable treatment option for pathologically staged stage IIIC endometrial carcinoma with disease confined to the pelvic lymph nodes. Failures in the para-aortic region suggest a possible role for extended-field RT. Patients with positive peritoneal cytology in conjunction with nodal metastasis fared poorly with pelvic RT. Studies evaluating the efficacy of WAI are ongoing. Finally, substages within FIGO stage IIIC are recommended in an effort to better understand and define treatment strategies which might be appropriate for these patients.

Endometrial cancer with para-aortic adenopathy: patterns of failure and opportunities for cure.

Corn BW, Lanciano RM, Greven KM, Schultz DJ, Reisinger SA, Stafford PM, Hanks GE Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 1992;24(2):223-7

Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Department of Radiation Oncology, Philadelphia 19104.

PURPOSE: To examine the outcome of patients with advanced endometrial cancer whose para-aortic involvement was diagnosed pathologically or lymphographically. METHODS AND MATERIALS: Fifty patients from four institutions were treated between 1959 and 1990 with preoperative, post-operative, and primary radiotherapy. Para-aortic disease was diagnosed pathologically in 26 patients and lymphographically in the remaining 24 patients. Pathologically diagnosed patients underwent debulking of grossly involved nodes. All patients received external beam treatment through pelvic and para-aortic portals. Median prescribed dose to the pelvic and para-aortic fields was 50 and 47 Gy, respectively. Those treated with primary or pre-operative irradiation also received intrauterine brachytherapy. RESULTS: The actuarial 5-year disease-free survival was 46% for all patients. Para-aortic failure was significantly decreased among patients undergoing lymph node resection (13% versus 39%, respectively). Relapse-free survival and pelvic control tended to improve among patients receiving surgery plus irradiation in comparison to those treated by irradiation alone. Distant metastases were most common among patients with high grade lesions. CONCLUSIONS: Long-term disease-free survival is achievable in endometrial cancer patients with para-aortic lymphadenopathy who are treated with extended-field radiotherapy. Cure is mot attainable among patients with well differentiated, early clinical stage disease who receive combined modality treatment. Survival and local failure are similar for radiologically and pathologically diagnosed patients; however, para-aortic failure as a component of local failure was increased in patients who did not undergo surgical debulking of the adenopathy.

Whole abdominal radiotherapy versus combination chemotherapy with doxorubicin and cisplatin in advanced endometrial carcinoma (phase III): Gynecologic Oncology Group Study No. 122.

Randall ME, Spirtos NM, Dvoretsky P J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr 1995;(19):13-5

Department of Radiation Oncology, Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis 46202, USA.

Although localized endometrial cancer is effectively treated with surgery and radiation therapy, the treatment of advanced disease remains problematic. With increasing utilization of primary surgical staging and therapy, the early identification of patients with tumor spread beyond the uterus is becoming routine. The impact of adjuvant radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy in these patients remains to be demonstrated. In several institutions, whole abdominal radiation therapy has been used with some success as adjuvant treatment in selected patients with advanced disease. The Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) has completed a phase II trial of the whole abdominal radiotherapy in this patient population. Although data analysis is not complete, the regimen employed appears to be tolerable and shows some evidence of efficacy. In previous GOG trials, cisplatin and doxorubicin have shown single-agent activity in patients with measurable, advanced endometrial cancer. Subsequently, the response rate with the combination of cisplatin and doxorubicin was found to be superior to that with doxorubicin alone. Because approximately 30%-50% of patients with extrauterine disease have systemic failure, the evaluation of combination chemotherapy with doxorubicin and cisplatin in the adjuvant setting seemed warranted. The current ongoing prospective, randomized trial (GOG No. 122) compares the survival and the progression-free interval and treatment failure patterns in patients with endometrial carcinoma of stage III or IV with up to 2 cm of residual disease when treated with either whole abdominal radiotherapy or a combination of doxorubicin and cisplatin. The incidence and type of acute and late adverse events observed with the two treatment regimens were determined and compared.