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Year : 2010  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 503-507

Treatment outcome of patients with carcinoma of vulva: Experience from a tertiary cancer center of India

1 Department of Radiation Oncology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi 110029, India
2 Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi 110029, India

Date of Web Publication24-Feb-2011

Correspondence Address:
Daya Nand Sharma
F-39, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi 110029
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0973-1482.77090

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 > Abstract 

Purpose: The aim of our retrospective study was to analyze and report the clinical outcome of patients with vulvar carcinoma (VC) treated at our center.
Materials and Methods: We retrieved the information regarding patients' clinical details, treatment given, survival and complications from the case records of all VC patients who were treated at our center during the year 1998-2005. Overall survival (OS) was determined with respect to age, histopathological grade, stage of disease, treatment group, pathological lymph node status, etc.
Results: A total of 60 case records were retrieved for this retrospective analysis. Age ranged from 24 to 92 years (median 63 years). International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) stage distribution was as follows: stage I: 2 patients; stage II: 17 patients; stage III: 31 patients; stage IV: 9 patients; and unknown stage: 1 patient. Thirty-three patients underwent surgery (wide local excision 3, radical vulvectomy 30). Eleven patients received postoperative radiation therapy (PORT), 12 received palliative radiation therapy (RT) and 15 underwent definitive RT (5 of them received concurrent chemotherapy). Median follow-up period was 23 months (range 2-144 months). The 5-year OS for all stages was 41%. FIGO stage and pathological node positivity were found to be statistically significant prognostic factors for survival.
Conclusion: Despite the majority of patients presenting in advanced stage, the 5-year OS of 41% in our series reflects a decent therapeutic outcome. The results have shown FIGO stage and pathological node positivity to be significant prognostic factors for survival. The use of preoperative chemotherapy/RT needs to be studied in our setup.

Keywords: Clinical outcome, retrospective analysis, vulvar carcinoma

How to cite this article:
Sharma DN, Rath GK, Kumar S, Bhatla N, Julka PK, Sahai P. Treatment outcome of patients with carcinoma of vulva: Experience from a tertiary cancer center of India. J Can Res Ther 2010;6:503-7

How to cite this URL:
Sharma DN, Rath GK, Kumar S, Bhatla N, Julka PK, Sahai P. Treatment outcome of patients with carcinoma of vulva: Experience from a tertiary cancer center of India. J Can Res Ther [serial online] 2010 [cited 2022 Oct 5];6:503-7. Available from: https://www.cancerjournal.net/text.asp?2010/6/4/503/77090

 > Introduction Top

Vulvar carcinoma (VC) is a relatively rare malignancy accounting for 3-5% of all gynecological malignancies. This is a disease of elderly women with the median age at diagnosis of 65-70 years. [1],[2] Regional metastasis to inguinal lymph nodes is common with a frequency of 6-50% reported in surgical series. Incidence of pelvic node metastases is about 30% in patients who have pathologically positive inguinal nodes. [3] The most important prognostic factor is the presence and number of inguinal node metastases. Other factors include extranodal tumor extension, tumor diameter, and depth of invasion, tumor thickness, lymphovascular space invasion, margin status, tumor grade and age. [3],[4],[5]

Patients with early stage disease are often managed with surgery alone, and adjuvant radiation therapy (RT) is offered to patients with close or positive margins or with inguinal lymph node metastases to reduce the locoregional recurrence and improve survival. [6],[7],[8] For patients with locally advanced disease, radical vulvectomy has been traditionally advocated but it is associated with significant morbidity. Therefore, the concept of organ preservation is emerging with multimodality approach, including preoperative or definitive treatment with chemoradiation. [8],[9],[10] At the same time, many patients who present in late age and have associated co-morbid conditions may not be suitable for aggressive treatments like radical surgery or chemoradiation. In such patients, definitive RT is a practical option for controlling the disease. RT can also provide effective palliation of symptoms in patients with far advanced disease, distant metastases or with medical co-morbidities.

The purpose of our retrospective analysis of 60 patients was to study the treatment results of VC and to review the reports in literature.

 > Materials and Methods Top

For this retrospective analysis, we retrieved the case records of all the VC patients who were treated at our center between 1998 and 2005. From each case record, we extracted the information regarding the patient's demography, clinical details, diagnosis, treatment given, survival and complications. Patients with non-carcinoma histology like melanoma, sarcoma, etc., were excluded from the present analysis.

The initial pretreatment workup of the patients consisted of detailed clinical examination in the gynecologic oncology clinic by a team comprising gynecologist and radiation oncologist. Each patient was subjected to various routine hematological and radiological investigations. Computed tomography (CT)/magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the abdomino-pelvic region and cysto-sigmoidoscopy were done, if necessary. Staging was done according to FIGO system. [11] The selection of treatment modality was decided by the gynecologic oncology clinic team.

The usual treatment options contemplated for early stage disease were 1) wide local excision with or without inguinal node dissection; 2) radical vulvectomy with inguinal node dissection; and 3) definitive RT for patients not suitable for surgery. For advanced stage disease, various options were 1) radical vulvecomy plus bilateral inguinal node dissection followed by postoperative radiation therapy (PORT), if indicated; 2) definitive chemoradiation; 3) preoperative chemoradiation followed by surgery; and 4) palliative RT. Routine indications for PORT to local area included positive or close (<8 mm) margins, lymphovascular invasion, and depth of tumor invasion >5 mm. Patients with more than one involved inguinal node, extracapsular extension, or gross residual nodal disease were considered for PORT to both groins and the pelvis.

A variety of dose fraction schedules and techniques of RT were employed as per the clinical and surgico-pathological details. The dose of RT for microscopic disease (postoperative) was 45-50 Gy and for gross disease (definitive RT) was 60 Gy with conventional fractionation (1.8-2.0 Gy per fraction, 5 days a week). Two asymmetric AP-PA fields (wide anterior field for covering the inguinal nodes and narrow posterior field for the pelvic nodes) were used on either cobalt-60 or linear accelerator. Electrons were used for boosting the inguinal node region. Treatment volume varied from vulvar site to inguino-pelvic region depending upon various factors.

Follow-up was done every month for the first 3 months, and then every 3 months till 1 year. Subsequently, they were followed up every 3-6 months. At every visit, clinical examination was performed and, if necessary, CT/MRI scans, to assess the disease status.

Statistical analysis was performed using the statistical software SPSS, version 11.5. The overall survival (OS) was calculated by Kaplan Meier survival method. [12] Acute morbidity was assessed as per the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) criteria. [13] Each patient, who was lost to follow-up after a certain period was censored at that point of time for survival analysis. OS was determined with respect to age (below and above 65 years), histopathological grade, stage of disease, treatment group, pathological lymph node status. Log rank test was used to find out the P value and a value of <0.05 was considered significant.

 > Results Top

A total of 60 case records were retrieved for this retrospective analysis. Various patient characteristics are given in [Table 1]. Age ranged from 24 to 92 years with a median of 63 years. Majority of the patients (40/60) had advanced disease (stage III-IVA). Thirty-three patients underwent surgery (wide local excision 3, radical vulvectomy 30 patients). Nodal dissection was performed only in 22 patients. Butterfly incision was given in 9 patients, and triple incision was given in 13 patients. Lymphadenectomy consisted of removal of both superficial and deep nodes. In view of the expected postoperative morbidity due to associated co-morbid conditions like diabetes, obesity, etc., eight patients were not offered lymph node dissection and instead offered adjuvant RT. Three other patients expressed their unwillingness for lymph node dissection when explained about the expected postoperative morbidity and did not give consent for the same. Due to advanced disease at presentation and elderly age, 12 patients received palliative RT. Fifteen patients underwent definitive RT; 5 of them received concurrent chemotherapy with cisplatin 50 mg/m 2 on a weekly basis.
Table 1: Patient characteristics

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Median follow-up period was 23 months (range 2-144 months). Out of 60 patients, 34 (57%) had no evidence of disease and 26 (43%) had failure. Of 26 failures, 25 were confined to locoregional site (vulva and inguino-pelvic area) and only one patient had distant metastases in lungs. The 5-year OS for all stages was 41% [Figure 1]. As shown in [Figure 2], the 5-year OS in stage I, II, III and IV was 100, 60, 41 and 0%, respectively. There was no significant difference in survival between the patients of <65 years of age and older patients (46% vs. 33%, respectively; P value 0.7) [Figure 3]. Histopathological grade also had no significant impact on the survival [Figure 4]. As evident from [Figure 5], pathologically node positive patients had significantly inferior OS than node negative patients (27% vs. 86%, respectively; P = 0.042).
Figure 1: The overall survival of all the patients

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Figure 2: The overall survival according to FIGO stage

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Figure 3: The overall survival of the patients <65 years versus >65 years of age

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Figure 4: The overall survival according to histopathological grade

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Figure 5: The overall survival of patients with (N+) and without (N0) pathological nodes

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Of the 33 patients who underwent surgery, 8 (24%) had delayed wound healing. Of the 21 patients who received PORT or definitive RT, 3 (11%) had acute severe complications in the form of Grade IV skin toxicity. None of the five patients who received weekly cisplatin chemotherapy experienced severe hematological complications. Of the 22 patients who underwent inguinal node dissection, 2 developed lymphocele and 5 developed lymphedema.

 > Discussion Top

Due to the rarity of VC, there are no large randomized controlled trials and most treatment guidelines are based on small and retrospective studies in the literature. In developing countries, where most cancer patients present in advanced stages, VC is rarely studied and reported. In the last decade, there has been only one study [14] from India. Ours is the largest series so far being reported from India and the results of our study may reflect the Indian scenario.

About two-thirds of the patients in our series presented in advanced stage (stage III-IV) of the disease. This figure is almost the same to that noticed in the study by Bafna et al. [14] The median age of presentation in our study (63 years) is also approximately the same as noticed in the worldwide literature. [3]

The results of study may not be strictly comparable to that in the literature since a significant proportion had fairly advanced disease at presentation and 20% of our study population was treated with palliative RT. Yet, the 5-year OS of 41% in our series reflects a decent outcome.

Our results have revealed FIGO stage of disease at presentation and pathological node positivity to be the significant prognostic factors for survival. Age of patient and histopathological grade failed to show an impact on survival. Chemotherapy and preoperative radiotherapy was used in very few patients in our series and therefore impact of these factors on survival was not calculated. Similar to our study, Maggino et al. [15] also observed stage and presence of positive nodes as the significant prognostic factors but the number of positive nodes failed to affect the prognosis.

FIGO stage at presentation was a significant prognostic factor, which is consistent with reports from literature. [3],[4],[5] Stage III-IV patients had a poor outcome as compared to stage I-II in our series [Figure 2]. In 1991, the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) reported a survival analysis of 588 patients and observed that 5-year survival in stage I, II, III, and IV was 98, 85, 74, and 31%, respectively. [5]

Histopathological grade has been regarded as an important prognostic factor in several studies [3],[4],[5] but it was not found significant in our series. Though radical vulvectomy was the commonest surgical procedure in our study due to advanced disease status, the recent trend is shifting toward conservative surgery with combined use of preoperative radiotherapy or chemo-radiotherapy. [8]

PORT is not routinely used in all VC patients but it has been shown to improve local control and survival in patients with close or positive margins (<8 mm), depth of invasion >5 mm, lymphovascular space invasion, two or more positive groin nodes and extracapsular extension. [7],[16],[17] In a retrospective series, adjuvant radiation significantly reduced the rate of local recurrence in patients with both close (<8 mm) and positive margins, from 58 to 16%. [7] In a GOG study, [16] patients with involved inguinal nodes after radical vulvectomy and bilateral inguinal node dissection were randomized to subsequent pelvic node dissection versus PORT. Dose of radiation was 45-50 Gy delivered bilaterally to the pelvic and inguinal nodes using anterior and posterior opposing fields. The study revealed a significant survival advantage for patients receiving PORT (2-year survival 68% vs. 54%, P = 0.03) and a lower rate of relapse (5% vs. 24%, P = 0.02).

Inguinal node metastasis is the most consistent prognostic factor in the literature. [3],[5],[18] Certain studies [5],[18] have shown a significant correlation between the number of positive nodes and survival. Most studies suggest more than two positive nodes as the significant number and therefore suggest PORT for such patients. Our study showed highly significant superior outcome in node negative patients as compared to node positive patients. A recent study by Landrum et al. [19] has not shown node as the significant prognostic factor. They have concluded in their study that lymph node status is not a predictor for OS or progression free survival (PFS) for advanced VC patients treated by primary surgery or chemoradiation.

According to recent literature, advanced VC is better treated initially with chemo-radiotherapy. [20],[21] Residual nodal disease can then be excised, a formal node dissection performed or boosted with further radiation. High rates of wound breakdown occur when operating in an irradiated field, and therefore boosting residual disease with radiation may potentially be a less morbid treatment option. [20],[21]

A GOG study [21] in 71 patients with advanced VC examined the feasibility and outcomes of preoperative chemo-radiotherapy in reducing the need for more radical surgery. Of the patients completing treatment, 46.5% had no visible vulvar disease at the time of planned surgery and only 2.8% had residual unresectable disease. This would be beneficial especially for patients with midline tumors in which excising any residual disease could still result in loss of clitoral or sphincter function, despite tumor regression.

Radiation can effectively palliate the symptoms (bleeding, ulceration, necrosis, pain, and malodorous discharge) in patients not suitable for radical treatment because of far advanced local disease, metastatic spread, or significant co-morbidites. A short course of palliative RT can produce dramatic regression of disease and give relief from symptoms. We recommend using a short course of RT with a dose of 20 Gy in five fractions over 1 week.

The acute morbidity of vulvar irradiation, especially after surgery, is substantial. [3] Common acute effects include moist skin desquamation, ulceration, wound complications, etc. Late radiation morbidity includes vulvar fibrosis, atrophy, telangiectasia, ulceration, and lymphedema. [3] Both acute and late radiation related morbidities can be potentially reduced with newer RT techniques like three-dimensional RT and intensity modulated RT (IMRT). Beriwal et al.[22] studied the use of IMRT in 15 patients with VC and reported that none of the patients had grade III acute toxicity and 2-year survival was 100%. Future trials with larger patient population will further explore its potential in improving the results.

The only study from India so far was a retrospective analysis of 37 patients reported by Bafna et al.[14] They could not draw any conclusion from their study due to small sample size but they observed worse prognosis with bilateral inguinal nodes and beneficial outcome with neo-adjuvant chemotherapy in advanced VC. In contrast, our study has revealed significant prognostic factors. The short median follow-up of 23 months in our series may be a limitation of study. However, poor follow-up in Indian female patients due to several factors like long traveling distances, low socioeconomic status, elderly age, etc., is not very unusual.

 > Conclusion Top

Ours is the largest series being reported from India so far. About two-thirds of the patients presented in advanced stage of the disease. The results have shown 5-year OS of 41% for all stages and 100-60% for stage I-II disease. Stage of the disease and pathological node positivity were found to be significant prognostic factors for survival. The use of preoperative chemotherapy/RT needs to be studied in our setup.

 > References Top

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3.Montana GS, Kang SK. Carcinoma of the vulva. In: Halperin EC, Parez CA, Brady LW, editors. Perez and Brady's Principles and Practice of Radiation Oncology. 5 th ed. London: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2008 pp 1692-1707.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Boyce J, Fruchter RG, Kasambilides E, Nicastri AD, Sedlis A, Remy JC. Prognostic factors in carcinoma of the vulva. Gynecol Oncol 1985;20:364.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Homesley HD, Bundy BN, Sedlis A, Yordan E, Berek JS, Jahshan A, et al. Assessment of current International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics staging of vulvar carcinoma relative to prognostic factors for survival (a Gynecologic Oncology Group study). Am J Obstet Gynecol 1991;164:997-1004.   Back to cited text no. 5
6.Dusenbery KE, Carlson JW, LaPorte RM, Unger JA, Goswitz JJ, Roback DM, et al. Radical vulvectomy with postoperative irradiation for vulvar cancer: Therapeutic implications of a central block. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 1994;29:989-99.   Back to cited text no. 6
7.Faul CM, Mirmow D, Huang Q, Gerszten K, Day R, Jones MW. Adjuvant radiation for vulvar carcinoma: Improved local control. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 1997;38:381-9.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Barnes EA, Thomas G. Integrating radiation into the management of vulvar cancer. Semin Radiat Oncol 2006;16:168-76.  Back to cited text no. 8
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10.Moore DH, Thomas GM, Montana GS, Saxer A, Gallup DG, Olt G. Preoperative chemoradiation for advanced vulvar cancer: A phase II study of the Gynecol Oncol Group. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 1998;42:79-85.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.FIGO staging classifications and clinical practice guidelines in the management of gynecologic cancers. FIGO Committee on Gynecologic Oncology. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 2000;70:209-62.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Kaplan EL, Meier P. Nonparametric estimation from incomplete observations. J Am Stat Assoc 1958;53:457-81.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Cox JD, Stetz J, Pajak TF. Toxicity criteria of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) and the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC). Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 1995;31:1341-6.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Bafna UD, Devi UM, Naik KA, Hazra S, Sushma N, Babu N. Carcinoma of the vulva: A retrospective review of 37 cases at a regional cancer centre in South India. J Obstet Gynaecol 2004;24:403-7.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Maggino T, Landoni F, Sartori E, Zola P, Gadducci A, Alessi C, et al. Patterns of recurrence in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the vulva. Cancer 2000;89:116-22.   Back to cited text no. 15
16.Homesley HD, Bundy BN, Sedlis A, Adcock L. Radiation therapy versus pelvic node dissection for carcinoma of vulva with positive groin nodes. Obstet Gynecol 1986;68:733-40.   Back to cited text no. 16
17.Manavi M, Berger A, Kucera E, Vavra N, Kucera H. Does T1, N0-1 vulvar cancer treated by vulvectomy but not lymphadenectomy need inguinofemoral radiation? Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 1997;38:749-53.   Back to cited text no. 17
18.Paladini D, Cross P, Lopes A, Monaghan JM. Prognostic significance of lymph node variables in squamous cell carcinoma of the vulva. Cancer 1994;74:2491-6.   Back to cited text no. 18
19.Landrum LM, Skaggs V, Gould N, Walker JL, McMeekin DS. Comparison of outcome measures in patients with advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the vulva treated with surgery or primary chemoradiation. Gynecol Oncol 2008;108:584-90.   Back to cited text no. 19
20.Thomas G, Dembo A, DePetrillo A, Pringle J, Ackerman I, Bryson P, et al. Concurrent radiation and chemotherapy in vulvar carcinoma. Gynecol Oncol 1989;34:263-7.  Back to cited text no. 20
21.Montana GS, Thomas GM, Moore DH, Saxer A, Mangan CE, Lentz SS, et al. Preoperative chemo-radiation for carcinoma of the vulva with N2/N3 nodes. A gynecologic oncology group study. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2000;48:1007-13.   Back to cited text no. 21
22.Beriwal S, Heron DE, Kim H, King G, Shogan J, Bahri S, et al. Intensity modulated radiotherapy for the treatment of vulvar carcinoma: A comparative dosimetric study with early clinical outcome. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2006;64:1395-400.  Back to cited text no. 22


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5]

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