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Study: Morcellator Cancer Risk Broader than Initially Believed

Jul 31, 2014

Power morcellators, which have recently been associated with the spread of uterine cancer, may also have the potential to spread other cancers in women’s bodies, according to a new research.

According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) the research strengthens prior research by federal regulators that use of laparoscopic power morcellators presents risks, The Wall Street Journal wrote.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised physicians in April to cease the use of morcellators for the removal of uterine fibroids. The FDA found that the medical device may spread previously undetected malignant tissue inside the body, which might significantly impact patients’ long-term survival.

A study conducted by researchers at Columbia University found that 1 in 368 women who undergo hysterectomies have an undetected uterine cancer at risk for spread by a power morcellator. The research reviewed the records of a larger group of women than FDA’s research, noted The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, earlier this month, the FDA conducted a two-day hearing concerning power morcellators and is expected to decide at some point in 2014 whether or not to restrict or ban use of the devices.

Although some gynecologists argue that the devices are, for the most part, safe, other physicians who were not involved in the Columbia University study said the findings reveal that morcellators put some women at great risk, according to The Wall Street Journal. "This just confirms it," said David Mutch, chief of gynecologic oncology at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

The researchers used a database containing insurance information to conduct the National Cancer Institute study. The team found more than 36,000 women treated with a power morcellator at 500 United States hospitals over seven years. The study revealed a similar hidden cancer risk that was also similar to the level seen in the FDA report, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The research also found that the risk of spreading cancers went beyond the uterine sarcomas first believed, according to The Wall Street Journal. Endometrial cancer was also seen.

The FDA explained that laparoscopic power morcellators break up pieces of tissue during surgical procedures, which makes the tissue more easily removable through tiny incisions made in the body.

In response to the FDA’s warning concerning power morcellators potentially spreading hidden cancers, Johnson & Johnson, the largest maker of morcellator devices, announced that it was stopping sales of its power morcellator worldwide, but would not issue a permanent market removal of its devices. The devices include the Gynecare Morcellex,” “Morcellex Sigma,” and “Gynecare X-Tract,” according to a prior The Wall Street Journal report.

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