Dr. Amy Reed is a 41-year-old anesthesiologist at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. After she underwent a procedure to remove uterine fibroids, she was diagnosed with a rare uterine cancer and was told that a minimally invasive procedure called morecellation may have spread her stage IV cancer.
The surgery involves grinding up the fibroids and removing the pieces through small incisions. Dicing up the growth before removal may inadvertently be spreading cancerous material through the abdomen.
Dr. Reed’s husband, a Boston area surgeon, has launched a campaign to immediately halt the procedure. See it on Change.org here.
His petition says one in 415 women who undergo fibroid surgery actually have a sarcoma. That translates to two to five women who may have cancer spread by a morcellation procedure.
“Fibroid development is very common in 20 to 40 percent of women over the age of 35. A fibroid is a growth made of muscular tissue of the uterus and often is benign but fibroids can mask a cancer growth. Often doctors remove what they believe to be a fibroid and never have a test to determine if cancer was present,” according to the petition.
The petition says More than 600,000 hysterectomies are done in the US every year. By the age of 70, one out of every three American women will have had a hysterectomy. About 90% of these surgeries are done for what is presumed to be the benign condition called fibroids. However, if the procedure results in an accidental morcellation of sarcoma, the life span of the woman is 24-36 months.
“This is an avoidable disaster.”
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports of the nearly 500,000 hysterectomies done in the U.S. in 2010, about 11 percent involved morcellation and that number is considered to be conservative.
“Please sign our petition so we can get the word out. We want the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology to change this “standard of care” by ending the needless waste of life caused by spreading cancer with morcellation.”
Dr. Reed does not blame the hospital for her cancer but for possibly spreading it. For now, Massachussetts General Hospital will inform women about the risks from the procedure. Brigham and Women’s Hospital will limit the procedure.
The Petition notes that these companies are involved with morcellation devices.
1) ETHICON: Gynecare morcellator
2) Storz: Rotocut Morcellator
3) Richard Wolf Medical Instrumentation Company
Intuitive Surgical’s Da Vinci Robot deserves special mention, as the frequency of robotic hysterectomies performed by gynecologists is currently on the rise across the United States. Though not a morcellator, robotic surgery such as with the DaVinci robot requires the uterus be morcellated or chopped up before it can be extracted.
The Petition states that the DaVinci robot does not appear to carry an adequate user for the surgeon, the end user.
“It is noteworthy that the DaVinci robot does not appear to have a readily available warning label advising against its use to morcellate tumors with malignant potential inside the body. The company’s Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Myriam Curet, a surgeon herself, has been informed and advised of this severe hazard in the use of DaVinci for robotic hysterectomy and the absence of a readily available warning label.”
Wall Street Journal, Doctors Eye Cancer Risk in Uterine Procedure, December 18, 2013
Petition, Change.org by Dr. Hooman Noorchashm
A video of the morcellation procedure is available on the Change.org website.
ABC News on Surgical Procedure
Peritoneal dissemination complicating morcellation of uterine mesenchymal neoplasms, Nov. 26, 2012, PLoS