The Dangerous Links between Morcellation and Cancer

As pointed out by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, uterine fibroids are considered the most common benign tumors that occur in women of reproductive age. These noncancerous growths are found in and around the wall of the uterus and can sometimes cause different symptoms. In particular, uterine fibroids are known to cause heavy and painful menstruation, bloating, frequent urination, pain during sexual intercourse, pain in the lower back and pelvic area, as well as issues with fertility and pregnancy complications.

In most cases, the best way to address these symptoms is through surgery. Patients who opt to have uterine fibroids surgically removed usually undergo minimally invasive procedures that lead to shorter recovery time. However, recent developments show that these laparoscopic methods can prove to be dangerous. In particular, concrete evidence point to the dangers caused by power morcellators—the primary tool used in these procedures.

The power morcellator is a surgical tool that makes use of fast-spinning blades in order to cut down and shred growth tissues, thus allowing the surgeon to extract the mass through an incision much smaller than what traditional surgery requires. This process is known as morcellation and is typically used for minimally invasive procedures involving other organs aside from the uterus like the spleen, pancreas, bladder, bowel, and other similar major structures. The main danger of morcellation lies on whether a patient has undetected malignant or cancerous growths. In such cases, the shredding of the tissues can cause the malignancy to spread and exacerbate the development of cancer.

In 2013, a Philadelphia doctor who had undergone this procedure to have uterine fibroids removed experienced these effects first hand. According to a report by CBS News, Dr. Amy Reed had cancerous growths that doctors were unable to diagnose before undergoing morcellation. As a result, Dr. Reed has had to undergo multiple surgeries and several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation to treat her cancer, which has spread to her spine.

Cases mirroring Dr. Reed’s experience have pushed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue a warning against the continued use of morcellation. According to the website of Williams Kherkher, the FDA had issued a Safety Communication emphasizing the extreme risks associated with power morcellators. In particular, they noted that the dangers of morcellation outweigh potential benefits caused by the procedure.