Posts made in September, 2014

The Risk of Cancer Due to Power Morcellators

Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

According to the National Institutes of Health, about a third of women in the United States will undergo a hysterectomy before she turns 60. Hysterectomy, a medical procedure wherein the uterus (or the womb) is removed, is done for a variety of reasons:

  • To reduce chronic pelvic pain and uncontrollable vaginal bleeding
  • To remove uterine fibroids (or myomas), which are benign tumors that grow in the uterus
  • To treat infections and different types of cancer (cervical cancer, ovarian cancer or uterine cancer)
  • To treat uterine prolapse, a condition wherein the womb or the uterus slips out of the cervix, falling halfway into the birth canal or vagina
  • Treatment of other conditions, including endometriosis, adenomyosis and pelvic inflammatory diseases

The traditional way of performing hysterectomy is through open surgery, which requires an incision in the abdomen, about five to seven inches long (also called Abdominal Hysterectomy). The modern way, and which more doctors prefer due to its many advantages, is laparoscopic hysterectomy, which necessitates only 0.5-1cm incisions and, therefore, much faster to heal, is easier and faster to perform, less bloody, less painful and reduces chances of infection.

Laparoscopic surgeries make use of a small camera, called a laparoscope, which guides the removal of the uterus, and a power morcellator, a device capable of cutting an oversized uterus and fibroids into small pieces to allow these to be removed through the tiny incisions.

During the early part of 2014, medical reports on the spread of uterine sarcoma, an undetected cancerous tissue in women with uterine fibroids, due to the use of a power morcellator surfaced. This harm that put women’s health and life at risk made the US Food and Drug Administration issue a safety alert on April 17, 2014, to discourage doctors from further using power morcellators in uterus removal (hysterectomy) or uterine fibroids removal (myomectomy) due to the risk cancer development.

Every year, about 50,000 women are treated with a power morcellator during a laparoscopic surgery. Though there is a slim chance that a woman, who has fibroids, can also have the hard-to-detect cancer-causing uterine sarcoma (1 in 350 women according to FDA estimate), the benefits provided by power morcellators still cannot outweigh the risks they can cause.

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