Postoperative irradiation in endometrial cancer: Still a matter of controversy

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Although endometrial cancer is the most common female malignancy, evidence-based uniform guidelines for postoperative therapy have not been established. The most logical management is adjuvant irradiation tailored to the extent of surgery, the tumour grade, depth of myometrial invasion, degree of lymph node involvement and age of the patient. Currently, the only widely accepted treatment recommendations are no further therapy in low-risk patients who underwent extensive surgical staging, and external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) in high-risk patients. Most authors recommend postoperative application of only one radiotherapy modality: either brachytherapy (BRT) or EBRT, as their routine combination does not clearly improve the outcome but does increase the risk of late complications. A combination of BRT and EBRT should however be considered in patients with stage II disease, for infiltration of the lower uterine segment, vaginal involvement, positive or close surgical margins, capillary space involvement or unfavourable histology. Two recent randomized studies including mostly intermediate-risk patients managed with either extensive surgical staging or total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (TAH&BSO) with or without postoperative EBRT, showed better local control but no survival benefit from adjuvant irradiation. Two ongoing Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) studies compare adjuvant chemotherapy with pelvic or abdominal irradiation in patients with high risk of local relapse. The role of adjuvant radiotherapy (EBRT with or without BRT) in high-risk patients as well as the value of lymphadenectomy in patients fit for such surgery is being addressed in a trial co-ordinated by the Medical Research Council. Future studies are warranted to define whether any irradiation should be employed in intermediate-risk patients and which radiotherapy modality should be used in high-risk node-negative patients with stage I tumours (stage Ib grade 3 and all stage Ic). Other issues which should be addressed in future studies include the extent of surgery, the role of systemic therapies, the relevance of novel biologic prognostic factors, salvage therapies after recurrence, cost-benefit analysis and quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-33
Number of pages15
JournalCancer Treatment Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Adjuvant treatment
  • Brachytherapy
  • Endometrial carcinoma
  • External beam irradiation
  • Postoperative
  • Radiotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Urology


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