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A petition calling for an end to the use of power morcellators during uterine fibroid removal surgery has reached the 10,000 signature mark, following FDA warnings and a social media campaign to raise awareness about the risk that the medical device may cause the spread of uterine cancer.
A power morcellation petition on change.org was created by Hoorman Noorchashm, whose wife, Amy Reed suffers from Stage 4 leiomyosarcoma uterine cancer after she underwent a minimally invasive hysterectomy during which a power morcellator spread cancer cells throughout her peritoneal cavity.
The incident led the couple, both doctors in the Boston medical community, to launch a crusade to raise awareness about the power morcellation cancer risks.
Power morcellators are used during laparoscopic hysterectomies and myomectomies to remove uterine fibroids by grinding up and removing the tissue through a small incision in the abdomen.
Although the minimally invasive procedures are often promoted as a superior alternative, providing quicker recovery times, less scarring and fewer post-surgical complications, some women may face serious risks from the procedure.
In about 1 out of every 400 cases, women do not just have benign fibroid tumors, but instead have undiagnosed sarcoma or leiomyoscarcoma cancer contained within the uterus. Unfortunately, there is no way for doctors to diagnose the cancer prior to the procedure.
For these women, morcellation can spread cancerous cells throughout the body cavity. This can “upstage” the uterine cancer; quickly taking it from its earliest stages to its most advanced and deadly form
The petition calls for an end to the use of morcellation during hysterectomy or uterine fibroid removal, noting that the average lifespan for a woman following accidental cancer morcellation is only two to three years, and only 15% of women whose leiomyosarcoma was spread by morcellation survive longer than five years. Women with sarcoma who undergo morcellation are four times more likely to die from sarcoma than if they had not undergone the procedure, the petition claims.
“A review of the literature reveals that 1 in 415 women who go for fibroid surgery actually has sarcoma,” the petition states. “This means that every day 2-5 women in the US – and more around the world will have a deadly cancer spread because of morcellation.”
On April 17, the FDA stepped in and issued a safety communication calling for doctors not to use power morcellators for uterine fibroid removal. The agency has set a meeting of its Obstetrics and Gynecology Devices advisory panel for next week to discuss how medical professionals should address the problem.
Following the FDA warnings, many hospitals have already announced that they will not use power morcellators until a medical consensus on the safest way to use the devices is reached. In addition, Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon division, the largest manufacturer of the devices, has stopped power morcellator sales.
Power Morcellator Lawsuits
As women and families learn that cases of leiomyosarcome and other aggressive uterine cancers diagnosed following uterine fibroid surgery may have been caused by morcellation, questions are being raised about why adequate warnings were not provided and whether manufacturers failed to make the devices as safe as they could have been.
A number of morcellation cancer lawsuits are now being pursued on behalf of individuals who had leiomyosarcoma, endometrial stromal sarcoma or other cancers spread during the procedures.
Plaintiffs allege that as they are currently designed, power morcellators are unreasonably dangerous. In addition, women claim that they may have avoided spreading cancer throughout their body if information about the risk had been provided to the medical community, since a number of alternative treatment options are available for women with symptomatic uterine fibroids, including traditional surgical hyesterectomy performed vaginally or abdominally, catheter-based blocking of the uterine artery, high-intensity focused ultrasound, drug therapy and laparoscopic hysterectomy or myomectomy without use of morcellation.