Procedure to Remove Fibroids Might Actually Spread Cancer

Morcellation, popular, minimally invasive method for removing uterine growths, is now believed by some experts to increase the risk of spreading cancer.

For the procedure, a power tool is used to grind up fibroids, allowing the pieces to be removed through smaller incisions. It's a popular option for dealing with fibroids, as it involves smaller scars and a quicker recovery. However, a new report—submitted to the New England Journal of Medicine and currently under peer review—is calling for a moratorium:

[A] much higher number of women than previously thought have undetected cancer in the fibroids, and that grinding the growths can inadvertently disperse cancerous material in the abdomen, in some cases tripling the odds of death within five years.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists still considers the procedure to be low-risk, but hospitals and medical centers in the Boston area plan to either impose limits on the procedure and/or tell women about the cancer risk.


About 20% to 40% of women over the age of 35 develop fibroids, which are the most common reason for hysterectomies. Usually, fibroids are benign. But a growing number of experts have suggested that "uterine sarcomas aren't as rare as believed and women aren't being adequately informed of the risk of the morcellation procedure."

At a 2011 U.S. convention, South Korean researchers said the mortality rate of women at a big medical center in their country whose leiomyosarcoma tumors were removed intact during hysterectomies was 19% after 63 months, compared with 44% after 39 months for woman whose tumors were removed using morcellators.

The article submitted to the New England Journal reviewed 10 studies of 30,000 women who underwent morcellation in several countries and concluded that nearly 1 in 400 women were found to have uterine sarcoma in the removed tissue.