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Impact of partnership status on clinical outcomes of patients with vulvar squamous cell carcinoma and performance of sentinel lymph node biopsy


Objectives Vulvar squamous cell carcinoma is a rare malignancy and lymph node involvement is the most significant prognostic factor. We aimed to evaluate the association between partnership status and mortality from vulvar squamous cell carcinoma, cancer stage at the time of presentation, and the decision for sentinel lymph node biopsy.

Methods The US National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database was queried and different parameters were evaluated relative to partnership status. A total of 4851 patients with vulvar squamous cell carcinoma, >18 years of age, who presented between January 2010 to December 2015, were analyzed. Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression analyses were used to assess survival and hazard ratio. Multinomial regression analysis and χ2 were utilized to evaluate odd ratios and significance of variables.

Results Most patients were unpartnered (58.5%), including never married (17.7%), divorced (13.8%), or widowed (27%). Partnered patients were mostly Caucasian (88.4%), insured (74%), and presented with stage I disease (57.2%), compared with unpartnered patients (79.1%), (61.7%), and (51.7%), respectively (p<0.01). The mean survival time (months) in partnered patients was longer, compared with unpartnered (p<0.001), and the difference between both groups increased from 9 months at stage I to 24 months at stage IV, which remained independently significant after adjusting the different variables. Cox regression showed that partnered patients had a lower hazard ratio than unpartnered patients (p<0.01). Mortality from vulvar squamous cell carcinoma increased with age at diagnosis, no surgery, and unemployment (p<0.01). Unpartnered patients were the least likely to undergo sentinel lymph node biopsy in early stages, compared with partnered (p<0.01). Univariate Cox regression analysis showed that not performing sentinel lymph node biopsy almost doubled the hazard ratio of vulvar squamous cell carcinoma (p<0.01).

Conclusions Partnership status should be considered when counseling patients for vulvar squamous cell carcinoma therapy and when recommending screening and follow-up to optimize patient care.

  • vulvar and vaginal cancer
  • sentinel lymph node
  • carcinoma

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