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Postoperative management of vulvar cancer


The primary treatment for resectable vulvar cancer includes wide local excision of the primary tumor and surgical lymph node assessment. Following surgery, up to 40–50% of patients develop a local recurrence. Historically, the strongest predictor of local recurrence is a positive or close margin (defined as <8 mm), although recent studies question the importance of margin status. Post-operative radiotherapy to the vulva is recommended for all women with a positive margin where re-excision is not possible. Radiotherapy may also be considered in the setting of risk factors for local recurrence: close margin, lymphovascular invasion, large tumor size, and/or depth of invasion >5 mm. Nodal assessment is an important component of vulvar cancer management. A negative sentinel node is associated with a low false-negative predictive value (2% in patients with vulvar tumor <4 cm in GOG 173), 2-year groin recurrence rate of 2.3%, and 3-year disease-specific survival rate of 97% in patients with unifocal vulvar tumor <4 cm in the GROningen INternational Study on Sentinel nodes in Vulvar Cancer (GROINSS-V I) study. Thus, patients with tumor size <4 cm (without additional local risk factors) and negative sentinel node can be observed. Patients with sentinel node metastasis ≤2 mm can be treated with post-operative radiotherapy (2-year isolated groin recurrence rate of 1.6% in GROINSS-V II), as a safe alternative to lymphadenectomy. Patients with sentinel node metastasis >2 mm following sentinel node biopsy should undergo inguinofemoral lymphadenectomy followed by post-operative radiotherapy—based on the GROINSS-V II study, the 2-year isolated groin recurrence rate remains unacceptably high (22%) with radiotherapy alone. Retrospective studies suggest that the addition of concurrent chemotherapy to radiotherapy may improve survival. The ongoing GROINSS-V III study is investigating concurrent chemotherapy and radiotherapy dose escalation. The main goal of these post-operative treatments is to reduce the risk of local, and especially groin, recurrences, which are almost universally fatal.

  • radiation
  • vulvar neoplasms

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