The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning doctors to stop using a procedure performed on tens of thousands of American women each year during uterine surgery because it may help spread cancer to other parts of the body.
The procedure, power morcellation, cuts fibroid tumor tissue into small pieces that can be pulled out through tiny incisions made during minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, The New York Times reports.
While the fibroid tumors are benign, hidden cancers sometimes also occur in the uterus. The rapidly spinning blades of a morcellator can spray cancer cells around inside the abdomen and speed the progression of the disease, the FDA said.
The Food and Drug Administration said that one in 350 women who have a hysterectomy or fibroid removal have unsuspected sarcomas. The agency issued a "safety communication" on Thursday to discourage the use of power morcellators in such operations.
About a half-million women a year have hysterectomies and 11 percent of those operations involve power morcellation, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.