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The Food and Drug Administration has recently warned of the possibility of cancer being spread in a woman’s bottom during a laparoscopic hysterectomy.
Each year, a half a million women in the United States undergo hysterectomies. These are normally done due to “fibroids” which are benign growths in the uterus that can cause pain, bleeding and other symptoms. These are normally noncancerous, however, occasionally, some cancerous cells may be hidden in the fibroid. The FDA estimates that one in 350 women will have these hidden cancers.
Historically, hysterectomies have been done as an open abdominal procedure. The surgeon merely opens the abdomen and the uterus is removed. In recent years, however, laparoscopic hysterectomies have become more common. In this procedure, a small tube is inserted into the abdomen and a tool known as a power morcellator is inserted. The morcellator grinds the fibroids and the uterus into small fragments which are then removed.
The problem that occurs is when the fibroid contains hidden cancer cells. If the hysterectomy is a traditional method, the whole uterus is removed and the cancer cells are all removed. However, if the morcellator is used, the fibroid is ground into fragments. The fragments that contain cancer cells are then spread onto surrounding tissue and the cancer is therefore spread.
The medical community has recently become aware of the cancer risks associated with cancer spread during laparoscopic hysterectomies when a morcellator is used. In April of 2014, the FDA announced that there is no way to guarantee that these procedures will not spread cancer. The FDA has advised that women undergoing this procedure should be advised of the risks of cancer.
Therefore, women who have undergone laparoscopic surgery and the surgeon used power morcellation, there is a risk that the procedure may have spread cancerous tissue to the abdomen and the pelvis.
Approximately 60,000 of these procedures are done in the United States every year. If you are scheduled to have such a laparoscopic hysterectomy, you should ask if power morcellation will be used. If so, you should understand the risks associated with the procedure.
If you have undergone the procedure and have not been diagnosed with cancer, it is unlikely that you will develop a later cancer as normally, when the tissue is removed, some of it is tested for cancer.