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The Link Between Power Morcellators and Uterine Cancer

Uterus Illustration with Fibroids

Well over half of women will develop uterine fibroids at some point in their lives, according to data from the National Institutes of Health. These non-cancerous tumors grow in the uterine wall, as illustrated by the image here. Often they cause no symptoms, and many women may not even know they have fibroids. Other times, fibroids are so significant in size, number, or both, that they cause a great deal of pain and other symptoms, including infertility.

When treatment with drugs and surgical removal of fibroids (myomectomy) does not solve the problem, doctors may recommend hysterectomy (removal of the uterus). Hysterectomy has typically required a recovery period of several weeks, in which the patient's activity must be severely limited. The option of laparascopic hysterectomy, a less invasive procedure with a recovery time of about two weeks, was a welcome development for many women.

Unfortunately, the price of a quicker recovery for some women was too high: power morcellators, a medical device used in performing myomectomies and laparascopic hysterectomies, have been linked to the spread of uterine cancer, increasing its lethality. Let's take a look at this connection between power morcellators and uterine cancer — and what your options are if this happened to you or someone you love.

How Power Morcellators Can Spread Cancer

Power morcellators use long, tube-shaped blades to cut uterine fibroids into very small pieces so that they can be removed through a small incision. In addition to being less invasive and having a shorter recovery time, the procedure also left minimal scarring, which appealed to many patients.

Power morcellators leave some tissue behind, which has historically not been viewed as any sort of risk. Doctors didn't see any need to try to collect and remove this tissue. However, there is also no way to determine in advance if uterine fibroids contain cancerous cells; if they do, slicing the tissue with a power morcellator may cause those cells to spread much more rapidly than they would have otherwise done, endangering a patient's health.

The FDA released a safety alert in April of 2014 stating that power morcellators may spread cancer cells from previously undetected uterine sarcoma or other gynecological cancers throughout a patient's pelvis and abdomen.

There is evidence that manufacturers of these devices, including Johnson & Johnson, Smith & Nephew, Olympus, and Hologic, among others, may have known of the risk much earlier, but did not make the information available to doctors and the public. Had they done so, many of the patients who opted for myomectomy or hysterectomy using a power morcellator might have chosen a more traditional, lower-risk procedure.

Oregon Medical Device Litigation

Medical device litigation is a subset of medical malpractice litigation. If you or your loved one were not given the information you needed to provide informed consent to a procedure, leading to injury or even death, you may have recourse against the manufacturer or party that prevented you from having the relevant knowledge. However, your time to act is limited under the law.

An experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney can help you identify whether you have a viable legal claim. We invite you to contact Huegli Fraser PC for an analysis of your situation and to discuss whether filing a claim makes sense for you and your family.

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Categories: Medical Malpractice

Blog Disclaimer

The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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