Anthony H. Russell, MD | Authors

Treatment of Gynecologic Cancers: From Halsted to the 21st Century

May 01, 2008

Halsted first proposed the concept of "radical surgery" for cancer in 1882, theorizing that cancer, along with all of its supporting tissues and regional lymph nodes, needs to be removed en bloc for the best chance of cure. Radical mastectomy with en bloc removal of the axillary nodes and pectoral muscles became the standard treatment for breast cancer. En bloc radical vulvectomy with complete superficial and deep inguniofemoral lymph node dissection became the standard of care for vulvar cancer. Subsequently, unilateral or bilateral pelvic node dissection extended the scope of the regional node dissection for vulvar cancer patients with metastases to groin nodes. Unquestionably, this surgically comprehensive technique improved cancer control rates for patients with locally extensive vulvar cancer, compared to results from piecemeal approaches that characterized surgical therapy in prior eras.