A power morcellator is a tool used in “minimally invasive” hysterectomy and uterine fibroid removal surgery. Your doctor may not have mentioned the tool or may have been vague about the details because the description of how it works is fairly horrifying. But the real danger is that it can spread previously undetected cancer cells throughout the pelvis, abdomen and other organs, making survival much less likely. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now recommends against using the device in most women.
How it Works and How it Spreads Cancer
Laparoscopic surgery is considered minimally invasive surgery because the incision required is very small. The point is to reduce recovery time and minimize the risk of complications as compared to traditional, open surgery.
In laparoscopic power morcellation a small bladed power tool is inserted through the small incision, typically in the naval, and used to cut up the uterus or fibroids into tiny pieces that can be removed through a narrow tube.
Yes, it is basically a tiny held-held blender, and if you have used a hand-held blender, you know where this is going. After morcellation, the majority of the minced tissue is removed, but during morcellation tiny bits of tissue are spread throughout the abdomen. If there is cancer in those tiny bits, then the cancer is spread.
Power Morcellation is Unnecessary
Doctors know not to use the tool when cancer is suspected, but it is often not suspected and only discovered after surgery when the removed tissue is examined by a pathologist. Morcellation makes the tissue more difficult for a pathologist to evaluate, making it more likely that existing cancer will also go undetected after surgery, prolonging diagnosis and treatment and allowing the now-disseminated cancer to flourish unchecked.
But there is no need to use the dangerous device. There are several other surgical techniques that are safe and effective, including minimally invasive procedures. Since there is no way to know for sure that no cancer is present, a power morcellation is simply too risky.
When cancer is localized, it is much easier to treat and treatment is much more likely to be successful. When it has spread the prognosis is much worse, and the likelihood of survival drops significantly. When undetected cancer is spread artificially, by the power morcellator, the women who have it do not even know they are at risk. The end result is not catching the cancer until it is in a late stage when it is difficult or impossible to treat.