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New Jersey Mom Dies From Leiomyosarcoma Allegedly Spread by Morcellation

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The 43-year-old New Jersey mom diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer who filed a lawsuit against her doctors for spreading her cancer by using a power morcellator in her hysterectomy procedure died on September 3, leaving behind a husband and a two-year-old son.

The woman underwent a minimally invasive hysterectomy in October 2014 to remove a large fibroid in her uterus, and her oncologist decided to use a controversial surgical tool, the power morcellator, to cut the tissue into small pieces for easier removal from her body. The doctor allegedly did not perform a preoperative biopsy on the woman, nor did he discuss the risks of morcellation with her, although she specifically told him that she had tremendous anxiety about ovarian cancer, according to the lawsuit.

Just weeks after the procedure, she was diagnosed with terminal Stage 4 leiomyosarcoma (LMS), a form of an extremely rare and aggressive cancer known as sarcoma. Her lawsuit was the third filed in New Jersey and was one of more than two dozen brought across the country involving the spread of cancer by morcellation.

What are Morcellators?

Morcellators are surgical tools that are used during laparoscopic hysterectomy and myomectomy procedures. They allow the surgeon to grind up the uterus or uterine fibroids and remove the small pieces of tissue through a small abdominal incision. There are some advantages to morcellation, including marginal scarring and reduced recovery time.

Morcellation Coming Under Fire

Because there is no definitive way to diagnose uterine cancer before using morcellator devices, when the tissue is ground up, the undetected cancer cells can be spread throughout the abdomen, resulting in rapid upstaging of the disease. As this risk has become more apparent, doctors have stopped using power morcellators, insurers have declined to cover procedures utilizing them, and the FBI is currently investigating the safety risks of the surgical devices.