A Doctor Told Me To Warn You: What Women Need to Know About Morcellation
I was at a health conference a while ago and had the fortunate occasion to meet an incredible doctor while I was there. We had quite an amazing conversation that I will never forget and I have to share with you. It’s not a hormone story but when this doctor found out what I do and about my blog he told me I had to spread the word to women about MORCELLATION. (*trigger alert for those with anxiety)
The doctor was very passionate about it and told me an emotional story of a woman that he knew personally. She was a busy mom and wife and career woman but she required a hysterectomy. A traditional hysterectomy takes 6 – 8 weeks recovery time. That’s a slow and painful recovery. Plus think of all the missed time off work and those small children to take care of. But she was given the good news that her doctor could actually go in laparoscopically and reduce the recovery time to around 2 weeks! That’s a big difference. So she opted for for the laparoscopic surgery instead. Heck who wouldn’t?
Here’s the thing this doctor told me to share with my readers – the procedure often (not always) used involves something called power morcellation. He described it to me saying that the surgeon goes in and chops up all the parts that need removing until they are teeny-tiny and can be removed laparoscopically. He said he’d never recommend it to any woman. He told me why:
There’s a risk – it’s something women need to know but isn’t often discussed with them. During our chat, the doctor told me that if the woman has any cancerous tissue that is not suspected (my research found that the risk of this is 1 in 350 women who undergo the procedure – not women in general which is an important distinction) the morcellation procedure will cause it to spread. A traditional hysterectomy doesn’t require the surgeon to slice tissue into little bits so doesn’t carry that same risk. And, it’s not that the fibroids are cancerous – its that other uterine tissue could be cancerous and the doctor isn’t aware. There are other laparascopic surgeries and alternatives that don’t involve power morcellation.
The sad ending is that the woman in the story went ahead with the morcellation procedure and was quite tragically the 1 out of 350 women with unknown cancer in her uterus. Approximately 55,000 women undergo a hysterectomy with morcellation procedure each year in the US according to American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Here’s a bit about who’s talking and what’s happening with Morcellation:
The Society of Obstetric Oncology put this Position Statement out about Morcellation back in December 2013.
In April 2014 the FDA put out a Communication and is DISCOURAGING use of power morcellation. Read about it here: Laparoscopic Uterine Power Morcellation in Hysterectomy and Myomectomy: FDA Safety Communication
Health Canada has recently followed suit.
Some doctors and hospitals have made the decision to ban the procedure.
Johnson & Johnson is the manufacturer of the device and has advised it will suspend selling the device.
The ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) released a Special Report on Power Morcellation and Occult Malignancy in Gynecologic Surgery Power Morcellation saying that it remains an option for some women but informed consent is critical
What Should a Woman Do? The FDA Put out these Recommendations for Women:
- Ask your health care provider to discuss all the options available to treat your condition and discuss the risks and benefits of each. Ladies – There are tons of other options out there – do your homework and ask your doctor about them. (that’s me saying that not the FDA!)
- If laparoscopic hysterectomy or myomectomy is recommended, ask your health care provider if power morcellation will be performed during your procedure, and to explain why he or she believes it is the best treatment option for you.
- If you have already undergone a hysterectomy or myomectomy for fibroids, tissue removed during the procedure is typically tested for the presence of cancer. If you were informed these tests were normal and you have no symptoms, routine follow-up with your physician is recommended. Patients with persistent or recurrent symptoms or questions should consult their health care provider.
Remember, my dear friends, to always advocate for yourself when it comes to your health.
It is your health after all.