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Lymphadenectomy for the management of endometrial cancer.

BACKGROUND: Endometrial carcinoma is the most common gynaecological cancer in western Europe and North America. Lymph node metastases can be found in approximately 10% of women who clinically have cancer confined to the womb prior to surgery and removal of all pelvic and para-aortic lymph nodes (lymphadenectomy) is widely advocated. Pelvic and para-aortic lymphadenectomy is part of the FIGO staging system for endometrial cancer. This recommendation is based on non-randomised controlled trials (RCTs) data that suggested improvement in survival following pelvic and para-aortic lymphadenectomy. However, treatment of pelvic lymph nodes may not confer a direct therapeutic benefit, other than allocating women to poorer prognosis groups. Furthermore, a systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs of routine adjuvant radiotherapy to treat possible lymph node metastases in women with early-stage endometrial cancer, did not find a survival advantage. Surgical removal of pelvic and para-aortic lymph nodes has serious potential short and long-term sequelae and most women will not have positive lymph nodes. It is therefore important to establish the clinical value of a treatment with known morbidity.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of lymphadenectomy for the management of endometrial cancer.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) Issue 2, 2009. Cochrane Gynaecological Cancer Review Group Trials Register, MEDLINE (1966 to June 2009), Embase (1966 to June 2009). We also searched registers of clinical trials, abstracts of scientific meetings, reference lists of included studies and contacted experts in the field.

SELECTION CRITERIA: RCTs and quasi-RCTs that compared lymphadenectomy with no lymphadenectomy, in adult women diagnosed with endometrial cancer.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently abstracted data and assessed risk of bias. Hazard ratios (HRs) for overall and progression-free survival and risk ratios (RRs) comparing adverse events in women who received lymphadenectomy or no lymphadenectomy were pooled in random effects meta-analyses.

MAIN RESULTS: Two RCTs met the inclusion criteria; they randomised 1945 women, and reported HRs for survival, adjusted for prognostic factors, based on 1851 women.Meta-analysis indicated no significant difference in overall and recurrence-free survival between women who received lymphadenectomy and those who received no lymphadenectomy (pooled HR = 1.07, 95% CI: 0.81 to 1.43 and HR = 1.23, 95% CI: 0.96 to 1.58 for overall and recurrence-free survival respectively).We found no statistically significant difference in risk of direct surgical morbidity between women who received lymphadenectomy and those who received no lymphadenectomy. However, women who received lymphadenectomy had a significantly higher risk of surgically related systemic morbidity and lymphoedema/lymphocyst formation than those who had no lymphadenectomy (RR = 3.72, 95% CI: 1.04 to 13.27 and RR = 8.39, 95% CI: 4.06, 17.33 for risk of surgically related systemic morbidity and lymphoedema/lymphocyst formation respectively).

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: We found no evidence that lymphadenectomy decreases the risk of death or disease recurrence compared with no lymphadenectomy in women with presumed stage I disease. The evidence on serious adverse events suggests that women who receive lymphadenectomy are more likely to experience surgically related systemic morbidity or lymphoedema/lymphocyst formation.

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