Surgery is rarely entered into lightly. Over the past two decades, many women have been advised of a minimally invasive procedure that could alleviate the pain or other symptoms of uterine fibroids. However, what these women were not always told was how the procedure would occur and that it could increase their chances of developing a potentially deadly form of cancer.
How Power Morcellators Are Used During Minimally Invasive Surgeries
A power morcellator is a medical device used during laparoscopic surgery. The power morcellator has a blade that can fit through a small incision and break up tissue in the body. The surgeon then extracts the broken-up pieces of tissue with a vacuum. Thus, surgeries with power morcellators require a smaller incision than traditional surgical methods to treat uterine fibroids or to perform a hysterectomy. Smaller incisions often result in shorter operating times, less blood loss, and shorter recovery times.
Why Power Morcellators May Increase the Risk of Cancer in Women
Unfortunately, the potential benefits of surgeries performed with power morcellators may be outweighed by the increased risk of cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates medical devices, estimates that approximately one out of every 350 women undergoing a hysterectomy or myomectomy with a power morcellator may have uterine sarcoma. This type of cancer is often not detected until after the procedure. However, if the hysterectomy or myomectomy is performed with a power morcellator, then small pieces of cancerous tissue—or individual cancerous cells—may be left in the body and may attach to other parts of the pelvis or abdomen. This can significantly and adversely affect a woman’s life expectancy.
For these reasons, the FDA is discouraging use of power morcellators for hysterectomies and myomectomies. Johnson & Johnson has also issued a voluntarily recall of its power morcellators and individual patients who developed cancer are filing lawsuits.
If you have had gynecological surgery with a power morcellator then we encourage you to speak to your doctor about the risks and about what screenings or follow-up care you may need.