Cervical cancer is the second commonest cancer among women up to 65 years of age and is the most frequent cause of death from gynaecological cancers worldwide. Sources suggest that a very high proportion of new cervical cancer cases in developing countries are at an advanced stage (IB2 or more) and more than a half of these may be stage III or IV. Cervical cancer staging is based on findings from clinical examination (FIGO) staging). Standard care in Europe and US for stage IB2 to III is non-surgical treatment (chemoradiation). However in developing countries, where there is limited access to radiotherapy, locally advanced cervical cancer may be treated with a combination of chemotherapy and hysterectomy (surgery to remove the womb and the neck of the womb, with or without the surrounding tissues). It is not certain if this improves survival. Therefore, it is important to systematically assess the value of hysterectomy in addition to radiotherapy or chemotherapy, or both, as an alternative intervention in the treatment of locally advanced cervical cancer (stage IB2 to III).
To determine whether hysterectomy, in addition to standard treatment with radiation or chemotherapy, or both, in women with locally advanced cervical cancer (stage IB2 to III) is safe and effective compared with standard treatment alone.
We searched the Cochrane Gynaecological Cancer Group Trials Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE and LILACS up to February 2014. We also searched registers of clinical trials, abstracts of scientific meetings and reference lists of included studies.
We searched for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that compared treatment protocols involving hysterectomy versus radiotherapy or chemotherapy, or both, in women with advanced stage (IB2 to III) cervical cancer presenting for the first time.
We assessed study eligibility independently, extracted data and assessed risk of bias. Where possible, overall and progression or disease-free survival outcomes were synthesised in a meta-analysis using the random-effects model. Adverse events were incompletely reported so results of single trials were described in narrative form.
We included seven RCTs (1217 women) of varying methodological quality in the review; most trials were at moderate or high risk of bias.Three were multi-centre trials, two were single-centre trials, and in two trials it was unclear if they were single or multi-centre. These trials compared the following interventions for women with locally advanced cervical cancer (stages IB2 to III):hysterectomy (simple or radical) with radiotherapy (N = 194) versus radiotherapy alone (N = 180); hysterectomy (simple or radical) with chemoradiotherapy (N = 31) versus chemoradiotherapy alone (N = 30); hysterectomy (radical) with chemoradiotherapy (N = 111) versus internal radiotherapy with chemoradiotherapy (N = 100); hysterectomy (simple or radical) with upfront (neoadjuvant) chemotherapy (N = 298) versus radiotherapy alone (N = 273).One trial (N = 256) found no difference in the risk of death or disease progression between women who received attenuated radiotherapy followed by hysterectomy and those who received radiotherapy (external and internal) alone (hazard ratio (HR) 0.89, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.61 to 1.29). This trial also reported no difference between the two groups in terms of adverse effects (18/129 grade 3 or 4 adverse effects in the hysterectomy and radiation group and 19 cases in 18/121 women in the radiotherapy alone group). There was no difference in 5-year tumour-free actuarial survival (representation of the probable years of survivorship of a defined population of participants) or severe complications (grade 3) in another trial (N = 118) which reported the same comparison (6/62 versus 6/56 in the radiation with surgery group versus the radiotherapy alone group, respectively). The quality of the evidence was low for all these outcomes.One trial (N = 61) reported no difference (P value > 0.10) in overall and recurrence-free survival at 3 years between chemoradiotherapy and hysterectomy versus chemoradiotherapy alone (low quality evidence). Adverse events and morbidity data were not reported.Similarly, another trial (N = 211) found no difference in the risk of death (HR 0.65, 95% CI 0.35 to 1.21, P value = 0.19, low quality evidence), disease progression (HR 0.70, 95% CI 0.31 to 1.34, P value = 0.24, low quality evidence) or severe late complications (P value = 0.53, low quality evidence) between women who received internal radiotherapy versus hysterectomy after both groups had received external-beam chemoradiotherapy.Meta analysis of three trials of neoadjuvant chemotherapy and hysterectomy versus radiotherapy alone, assessing 571 participants, found that women who received neoadjuvant chemotherapy plus hysterectomy had less risk of death than those who received radiotherapy alone (HR 0.71, 95% CI 0.55 to 0.93, I(2) = 0%, moderate quality evidence). However, a significant number of the participants that received neoadjuvant chemotherapy plus hysterectomy had radiotherapy as well. There was no difference in the proportion of women with disease progression or recurrence between the two groups (RR 0.75, 95% CI 0.53 to 1.05, I(2) = 20%, moderate quality evidence).Results of single trials reported no apparent (P value > 0.05) difference in long-term severe complications, grade 3 acute toxicity and severe late toxicity between the two groups (low quality evidence).Quality of life outcomes were not reported in any of the trials.
From the available RCTs, we found insufficient evidence that hysterectomy with radiotherapy, with or without chemotherapy, improves the survival of women with locally advanced cervical cancer who are treated with radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy alone. The overall quality of the evidence was variable across the different outcomes and was universally downgraded due to concerns about risk of bias. The quality of the evidence for neoadjuvant chemotherapy and radical hysterectomy versus radiotherapy alone for survival outcomes was moderate, with evidence from other comparisons of low quality. This was mainly based on poor reporting and sparseness of data where results were based on single trials. More trials that assess medical management with and without hysterectomy may test the robustness of the findings of this review as further research is likely to have an important impact on our confidence in the estimate of effect.