There is a very aggressive form of cancer known as Leiomyosarcoma (LMS). It is a rare form of sarcoma, and it can often be controlled when caught early. However, once it has spread (metastasized) it becomes incredibly difficult to treat. When a patient has been diagnosed with LMS, their condition is graded and staged using a system of numbers from one to four (with four the most severe).
When a patient is staged at three or four, it is often going to be the LMS that will soon take their life. This is because it is a cancer that appears in the soft tissue of the body – most often the involuntary muscles. This means it can travel along almost any pathway that contains blood vessels, and it can remain hidden for a very long time before it is detected. Metastatic LMS is often given a very bad prognosis, and it is something that can be avoided through early detection, surgical excision of any tumors, and adjutant treatment with chemotherapy and radiation.
Unfortunately, a recent turn of events indicated that some women received gynecological treatments that exposed them to a tremendously rapid spread of this aggressive form of cancer.
Power Morcellators and Metastatic Leiomyosarcoma
In 2014, the FDA released a report indicating that the laparoscopic tool known as the morcellator (also called a power morcellator or electric morcellator) put some women at great risk. This is because the tool is inserted into the abdomen of the patient and then used to segment tissue for removal via a suction or vacuum tool. The segmenting or shredding of the tissue can allow small cells to enter the blood stream. Should the tissue be undiagnosed LMS, it mean that a woman’s once treatable form of cancer has now become systemic.
Here is a very simple explanation of this problem: Let us say that a woman has developed what her gynecologist believes to be fibroid tumors. These appeared suddenly, or her symptoms changed quickly and she suddenly began to have heavy bleeding and pain when she had not experienced it in the past. Rather than testing the fibroids with imagery and blood work, the gynecologist may have suggested that the tumors be removed or even that the patient should undergo a partial hysterectomy.
This is not an uncommon set of steps, but in this instance, it could prove disastrous. This is because the laproscopic removal of the fibroids (usually benign) would be done with a morcellator. This device would be inserted into the patient and used to segment the fibroids, releasing cancer cells into the bloodstream. Additionally, when LMS tumors are surgically removed, they require what are known as wide margins – a space up to two inches around the unhealthy tissue – to ensure that no cells remain.
So, the use of the device would release unhealthy cells and leave a positive margin (infected margin) in the area. The patient would then have what is known as systemic LMS because tumors would be quite likely to appear in many new areas of the body thanks to the spread of the cells, and the cancer would also remain where the tumors or tissue was removed.
LMS & Metastatic
The use of a morcellator for other procedures, such as spleen or liver procedures, has proven to be highly effective. However, the risks to those with undiagnosed LMS just cannot be ignored. Many medical centers and hospitals have imposed a moratorium on the use of the morcellator, and though this means a more invasive surgical procedure, it is a move that is quite likely to save many women’s lives and prevent the spread of a truly aggressive and rare cancer.
DrugWatch.com. Power Morcellators. 2015. http://www.drugwatch.com/morcellators/