Background Currently, all patients with vulvar cancer with a positive sentinel node undergo inguinofemoral lymphadenectomy, irrespective of the size of sentinel-node metastases. Our study aimed to assess the association between size of sentinel-node metastasis and risk of metastases in non-sentinel nodes, and risk of disease-specific survival in early stage vulvar cancer.
Methods In the GROningen INternational Study on Sentinel nodes in Vulvar cancer (GROINS S-V), sentinel-node detection was done in patients with T1-T2 (
Findings Metastatic disease was identified in one or more sentinel nodes in 135 (33%) of 403 patients, and 115 (85%) of these patients had inguinofemoral lymphadenectomy. The risk of non-sentinel-node metastases was higher when the sentinel node was found to be positive with routine pathology than with ultrastaging (23 of 85 groins vs three of 56 groins, p=0.001). For this study, 723 sentinel nodes in 260 patients (2.8 sentinel nodes per patient) were reviewed. The proportion of patients with non-sentinel-node metastases increased with size of sentinel-node metastasis: one of 24 patients with individual tumour cells had a non-sentinel-node metastasis; two of 19 with metastases 2 mm or smaller; two of 15 with metastases larger than 2 mm to 5 mm; and ten of 21 with metastases larger than 5 mm. Disease-specific survival for patients with sentinel-node metastases larger than 2 mm was lower than for those with sentinel-node metastases 2 mm or smaller (69-5% vs 94.4%, p=0.001).
Interpretation Our data show that the risk of non-sentinel-node metastases increases with size of sentinel-node metastasis. No size cutoff seems to exist below which chances of non-sentinel-node metastases are dose to zero. Therefore, all patients with sentinel-node metastases should have additional groin treatment. The prognosis for patients with sentinel-node metastasis larger than 2 mm is poor, and novel treatment regimens should be explored for these patients.