Warning: Don’t let your doctor talk you into this kind of surgery
I recently warned you about the dangerous way a lot of hysterectomies and surgeries for fibroids are being done. It can be a killer, because it can spread deadly cancer throughout a woman’s body.
The excuse for doing it is that it makes the surgery easier for the doctor and can shorten hospital stays.
The risky practice is called morcellation, and experts have known about its dangers for over 20 years. Surgeons use an electrical device to chop up the uterus, as well as any fibroids, so they can be removed though a small incision.
Now, even after all the news reports on its risks, some doctors and hospitals are saying they will continue to use this quick method of surgery. Some say that the warnings are more “public relations” than “science.”
But no matter what your doctor tells you about morcellation, doing surgery this way can be a killer.
I know how hard it can sometimes be to talk with your doctor. And often you only get a few minutes of his time.
But this is one case where you must insist on having that chat. And since the dangers of this procedure have hit the news, many women have had to make a decision about going along with their doctor’s advice…or not.
And it looks like many will need to “just say no.”
One woman who did that is Debra Grymkoski. And that might have saved her life.
She needed surgery to remove fibroids, and her doctor wanted to use the “easy” method. She told him that she was worried about the chopping technique after reading a story about it in The Wall Street Journal.
Unfortunately Grymkoski was found to have a cancer in her uterus, but not till after the surgery was done.
Fortunately, she did not allow her doctor to remove her fibroids with the surgical slicing device. She says that she “feels lucky.” And as for her doctor, well he said that he “walked away from that almost dumfounded.” He said that what would have saved him 30 minutes in the operating room would have been “much worse” for his patient.
These types of cancers are almost never found before they’re removed. And that’s why this technique is so dangerous.
Even Johnson & Johnson, which makes one of these surgical slicing devices, will be “suspending global sales, distribution and promotion” of its brand of the chopping machine.
The company’s doing that, it claims, while waiting to hear what the FDA has to say about all this.
But there are still two dozen brands of other such devices on the market. And they are still in the hands of doctors and hospitals everywhere.
The most vocal critic of this practice, a surgeon whose wife had a deadly cancer spread because of this procedure, said what J&J is doing doesn’t go far enough.
He said that as long as any of these devices are left on “the shelf,” women are in danger.
And it’s not just doctors, but hospitals that are also divided on the issue. Some, like the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center System, said they will continue using the method. Others, such as the New York Unity Health System, have stopped.
And then there’s Grymkoski’s doctor. He said he will likely “not ever use it again.”
This spring the FDA finally stepped in and “strongly cautioned” doctors against morcellation. And that was after knowing about the dangers for years.
And that weak-kneed caution will do nothing more than cause more confusion.
So until that day comes along when the FDA actually steps up to the plate and does its job, it will be up to us to protect ourselves. So please make sure that you, your wife, or any women you know do not agree to this risky type of surgery.
If the doctor says that’s how it should be done, offer to pay for 30 extra minutes of his time.
“FDA advisory on surgical device divides doctors” Jennifer Levitz and Jon Kamp, May 21, 2014, The Wall Street Journal