In an effort to remove noncancerous fibroids and other tissues, many women undergo a hysterectomy or a myomectomy. According to the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, a myomectomy is an operation to remove fibroids while preserving the uterus. In the past, power morcellators were used in many of these procedures as a minimally invasive way to mince up these tissues for removal. However, there was soon shown to be a strong relationship between development of dangerous cancers and these morcellators. As power morcellators diced up tissue into smaller pieces, potentially malignant tissue was spread into other areas of the body. The cancers caused by these morcellators are potentially deadly in women, such as metastatic leiomyosarcoma, uterine cancer, uterine sarcoma, and endometrial stromal sarcoma. According to Williams Kherkher, 1 in every 370 women who underwent a procedure using a power morcellator later developed one of these types of uterine cancers.
Forms of uterine cancer can go undetected for some time as the symptoms can often be confused for other less serious issues. Symptoms of morcellation-induced uterine cancers include nausea and vomiting, swelling of the abdomen or pelvis, and pelvic or abdominal pain. Women may also experience increased vaginal discharge or vaginal bleeding or spotting. Other signs may be external changes in appearance such as weight loss or changes in vulva color or skin, including warts or rashes.
Morcellators can actually not only spread cancer cells, but cause it to progress into later and more deadly stages. Despite a morcellator recall by Johnson & Johnson, the makers of the device, and an official “black box” warning by the FDA, the warnings came too late for many women.