Soft tissue sarcomas: Preoperative versus postoperative radiotherapy

Edward Y. Cheng, Kathryn E. Dusenbery, Margaret R. Winters, Roby C. Thompson

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156 Scopus citations


External beam radiation may be given either before or after excision of a primary soft tissue sarcoma. This study was undertaken to determine whether or not the timing of radiotherapy was associated with any difference in either local control, survival, or incidence of complications. The files of 112 patients with a primary, nonmetastatic, extremity soft tissue sarcoma, treated with limb salvage surgery and irradiation were evaluated. Data regarding tumor stage, grade, site, surgical margin, dosage and timing of radiotherapy, treatment complications, disease relapse, and relapse-free survival (RFS) were analyzed. Kaplan-Meier lifetable analysis was used to determine survival estimates. There was no significant difference in the 5- year RFS between patients receiving radiotherapy (RT) preoperatively versus postoperatively; 56 ± 15% and 67 ± 12% (P = 0.12, Mantel-Cox), respectively. There was no significant difference in the overall survival between patients receiving RT preoperatively versus postoperatively: 75 ± 15% and 79 ± 11% (P = 0.94), respectively. Actuarial local control at 5 years for preoperative versus postoperative RT patients was not statistically different; 83 ± 12% versus 91 ± 8% (P = 0.41), respectively. Wound complications were more frequent in preoperative RT patients (31%) compared to postoperative RT patients (8%) (P = 0.0014, chi-square). Preoperative irradiation was not associated with any benefit in terms of relapse-free survival, overall survival or actuarial local control in this series. A higher incidence of major wound complications was found among patients treated with preoperative irradiation. We recommend that patients with a resectable extremity soft tissue sarcoma be treated with postoperative irradiation, reserving preoperative irradiation for those situations in which either the tumor is initially thought to be unresectable or the original tumor boundaries are obscured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-99
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Surgical Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1996


  • complications
  • local recurrence
  • metastasis
  • radiation
  • sarcoma
  • surgery


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