FDA warns that uterine fibroid procedure could spread hidden cancer

FDA warns that uterine fibroid procedure could spread hidden cancer

A warning from the FDA.

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spoke in favor of abandoning a commonly used procedure in women because of the potential to spread cancer that may have previously gone undetected.

The procedure has been widely utilized in the removal of non-cancerous growths in the muscles of the uterus, known as uterine fibroids. Laparoscopic surgeries are often favored for being less invasive, as it removes small pieces of tissue through tiny incisions. According to the FDA, around 1 in 350 women undergoing this surgery have cancer that they aren’t aware of having and this procedure breaks up the malignant cells and allows them to scatter throughout the body.

The FDA’s recommendations come on the heels of rapidly growing research and clinical support for removing the procedure from practice. Awareness of the degree of risks and repercussions has come into sharp focus for many professionals in the last year after a doctor from Boston developed stage four cancer when this procedure caused malignant cells to spread throughout her abdomen. She and her husband have been campaigning aggressively to limit its use and their movement is quickly gaining traction.

Uterine fibroids are typically benign and can be present with very little side effect. They also have the potential to cause significant discomfort from pain, extended menstruation and an increased need to urinate. The laparoscopic procedure allowed women relief from these effects without the need or expense of a lengthy hospital stay and painful recovery.

Currently, the procedure is performed on more than 50,000 women a year. Many professionals want to see this number greatly reduced. Recommendations are that doctors only operate on small fibroids, after informing the patient of the potential risks, and only performing the procedure using an isolation bag meant to keep tissues contained. The isolation bags are not entirely reliable either, as they can break and allow tissue to escape.

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