Three U.S. teaching hospitals are now examining the safety of a popular surgery to remove uterine growths after reports that the procedure could spread cancer in high rates. Two esteemed hospitals in Boston, along with the Cleveland Clinic, plan to better inform patients of this risk. Medical negligence attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm remind women undergoing these types of procedures that they must always be adequately informed of all risks before they consent to a surgery.
The procedure, known as uterine fibroid surgery, is recommended for patients diagnosed with noncancerous growths in the uterus. It is estimated that about three out of four women will experience these types of growths (fibroids) in their lifetime, some without ever realizing it. By themselves, uterine fibroids do not cause cancer and are easily manageable. In a specific subset of patients, however, the symptoms (pain, bleeding) interfere with health to such an extent that surgery is necessary.
Uterine growth procedures are minimally invasive, typically performed laparoscopicly. The number of these types of surgeries has skyrocketed over the past decade, often with positive results. For some women, however, the procedures have turned disastrous and even fatal, because it significantly increases the risk of cancer spreading into the abdomen.
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In some women, undetectable cancer cells proliferate in these uterine growths and can spread into the abdomen during or after laparoscopic surgery. This is due to the nature of the surgery, which requires surgeons to “grind” the growths down into small pieces so they are more easily removed. Thus, the cancer cells release into the abdomen and uterus, making the potential for full-blown cancer more likely.
Making matters worse, physicians are currently unable to test the fibroids to determine if the growths are cancerous before the procedure and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explicitly notes that there are not guidelines for how physicians should inform patients of this risk.
Why Women aren’t Being Warned
In a study involving 30,000 patients, researchers determined that about one in every 415 women who undergo this procedure have undetected cancerous fibroids. Prior to these findings, which will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine, physicians believed the risk to be much lower – about one in 10,000 – and were therefore understating the actual risks to patients.
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As a result, several hospitals are now placing severe limits on uterine growth removal procedures as well as changing the language of their informed consent process. More research is desperately needed to confirm the actual incidence of cancer spread, however, physicians believe patients need to at least have a voice in the conversation. It is important patients know that there are several other options for safely removing uterine growths, which they may want to seriously consider.
It is equally important that patients know that they need to be sufficiently warned of the actual risks of any procedure before they agree to it. If patients are not sufficiently warned, and suffer serious side effects from the procedure, they may be able to file a negligence lawsuit against the hospital or responsible medical professional.
Oftentimes, it is only through these types of lawsuits that hospitals actively change their informed consent processes. Lawsuits of this kind are therefore the most efficient and effective way to enact change in the hospital and recover, financially and emotionally, from the ordeal. Our team of medical negligence lawyers has decades of experience in this area, and offer free legal consultations to injured patients nationwide.