Correct identification of patients with lymph node metastasis from cervical cancer prior to treatment is of great importance, because it allows more tailored therapy. Patients may be spared unnecessary surgery or extended field radiotherapy if the nodal status can be predicted correctly. This review captures the existing knowledge on the identification of lymph node metastases in cervical cancer. The risk of nodal metastases increases per 2009 FIGO stage, with incidences in the pelvic region ranging from 2% (stage IA2) to 14-36% (IB), 38-51% (IIA) and 47% (IIB); and in the para-aortic region ranging from 2 to 5% (stage IB), 10-20% (IIA), 9% (IIB), 13-30% (III) and 50% (IV). In addition, age, tumor size, lymph vascular space invasion, parametrial invasion, depth of stromal invasion, histological type, and histological grade are reported to be independent prognostic factors for the risk of nodal metastases. Furthermore, biomarkers can contribute to predict a patient's nodal status, of which the squamous cell carcinoma antigen (SCC-Ag) is currently the most widely used in squamous cell cervical cancer. Still, pre-treatment lymph node assessment is primarily performed by imaging, of which diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging has the highest sensitivity and 2-deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-D-glucose positron emission computed tomography the highest specificity. Imaging results can be combined with clinical parameters in nomograms to increase the accuracy of predicting positives nodes. Despite all the progress regarding pre-treatment prediction of lymph node metastases in cervical cancer in recent years, prediction rates are not robust enough to safely abandon surgical staging of the pelvic or para-aortic region yet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1600-1610
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number9
Early online date9 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Biomarkers
  • Cervical cancer
  • Diagnosis
  • Incidence
  • Lymph node metastasis
  • Risk factors

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