Researchers are warning that a common gynecological procedure performed on 50,000 American women a year might actually — whoopsie-daisy! — be spreading cancer.
The procedure is called morcellation, and it's used to treat fibroid tumors and perform hysterectomies. To perform the minimally invasive procedure, doctors use a device to cut the uterus into smaller pieces, which are then removed through incisions.
The problem, as previous research into morcellation has shown, is that doctors who accidentally cut into tumors that they didn't know were there risk unwittingly spreading cancer cells "throughout the abdomen." But new research indicates that the whoopsie daisy we just metastatized the cancer for you side effect of morcellation is actually much more common than was previously thought. In fact, analysis of a gigantic amount of patient data showed that one in 368 women who received morcellation were at serious risk for having their cancer spread rather than eliminated. Here's an incredibly scary bit on that from the New York Times:
...recent cases suggest that [morcellation] can spray pieces of tumor around, worsening the cancer. A review of cases at Dr. George's center found that cancer spread significantly faster after morcellation than after major abdominal surgery to remove the uterus.
Fortunately, there are other minimally invasive ways to remove the uterus besides morcellation. But for women who suffer from gynecological issues, learning that something that doctors said would help is actually hurting is disturbing news indeed.
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