Selection of testicular tumor patients for omission of retroperitoneal lymph node dissection
Excluding patients with bulky stages II or III disease, 73 patients with nonseminomatous germ cell testicular tumors were evaluated between September 1979 and April 1983 for a protocol omitting retroperitoneal lymph node dissection. Patient eligibility required clinical stage I (T1 category) disease based upon normal post-orchiectomy serum tumor markers (alpha-fetoprotein, human chorionic gonadotropin and lactic dehydrogenase), chest x-ray, ipsilateral lymphangiography, and a computerized tomography scan of the abdomen and pelvis. Of the 73 patients 10 (14 per cent) were entered and followed for more than 2 years (3 had relapse within 7 months but were salvaged with retroperitoneal lymph node dissection and chemotherapy). Analysis of failures showed embryonal carcinoma in all 3 patients, with vascular invasion in the primary tumor in 1 and undetected spermatic cord involvement in 1, while 1 had a slower than expected decrease to normal of an elevated human chorionic gonadotropin level after orchiectomy. There were 63 patients (86 per cent) excluded from the protocol for various reasons: 2 (3 per cent) refused treatment, 16 (25 per cent) had suspicious or positive lymphangiography, 22 (40 per cent) had a positive CT scan, 6 (9 per cent) had elevated tumor markers, 3 (5 per cent) were less than 15 or more than 15 or more than 40 years old, 8 (13 per cent) had had a prior orchiopexy or scrotal violation, 4 (6 per cent) had extension to the spermatic cord and 2 (3 per cent) were unavailable for monthly followup. These 63 patients underwent retroperitoneal lymph node dissection, and 36 (57 per cent) had negative and 27 (43 per cent) had positive nodes (8 had stage N1, 10 stage N2A, 6 stage N2B and 3 stage N3 disease). Average interval from orchiectomy to final staging was 6 weeks. The results suggest that assessment of local tumor extent and potential sites of metastases via all available means are necessary in an effort to reduce the risk of tumor recurrence in patients who are followed expectantly.