On Monday, the US Food and Drug Administration warned women to be careful when choosing to have their uterine fibroids removed by means of a surgical instrument named power morcellator because it is suspected to cause cancer.
The FDA move may change the way doctors operate women’s often painful uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are the prime cause for 40 percent of the hysterectomies performed each year in the US.
The US federal agency stepped in and made the public warning after several articles about the issue published by a well-known US newspaper and a national campaign started by two Boston doctors.
“We believe that in the vast majority of women, the procedure should not be performed,”
Dr. William Maisel, FDA representative said.
The power morcellator is used by surgeons to pulverize uterine fibroids before removing them from the patient’s body through a small abdomen incision. If fibroids contain cancerous cells, the device spreads the cancer throughout the whole woman’s body.
Dr Hooman Noorchashm, one of the two medics who opposed morcellator’s use, has requested several times from FDA to ban the device and make its use illegal in the US. On Monday, he said to the reporters that he didn’t think FDA warnings were of any use as long as the power morcellator was still on the market.
Dr Noorchashm’s wife, Amy Reed, after a hysterectomy procedure last year, got a grade four cancer diagnosis. Mrs Reed was also a doctor back then at a medical center in Boston. Now her cancer is in remission and she hopes she will be soon able to get back to work in a hospital in Pennsylvania. The two medics have now six children.
Gynecologists prefer using the power morcellator during uterine surgeries because it doesn’t leave the scar tissues a scalpel leaves, and thus it doesn’t lower the chance of becoming pregnant.
The FDA representative, Dr Maisel, said the surgical device could still be useful on young patients with a low risk of cancer. He also said 50.000 women had the morcellator procedure done every year, and about one in every 350 patients had cancer spread because of the device. These women learned they had cancer after the removed tissue was analyzed. But Dr Maisel reassured women who weren’t announced shortly after the procedure they had cancer that they weren’t at risk.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports FDA’s decision of not giving the device a permanent ban in the US. The group’s members continue to believe that power morcellator is still useful in gynecologic procedure. The ACOG doctors also believe that informing women about the risks will provide the real protection.