About 500,000 hysterectomies are done annually in the United States for such problems as uterine cancer and fibroids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Wright identified more than 230,000 women who underwent minimally invasive hysterectomy from 2006 through 2012. Of those, about 36,000 women had the morcellation technique. Among these, 99 cases of uterine cancer were found. That translates to about 27 women in every 10,000.
The older the woman, the more likely she was to have underlying cancer, the study found. While six women under age 40 had uterine cancer detected after morcellation, 24 women aged 65 and older did -- an increase of about 36 percent.
While the risk of morcellation has been known, the new study offers valuable new information about older women being most at risk, said Dr. Michael Strongin, chief of gynecologic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"I think the important take-home is, the older the patient who is undergoing a procedure like power morcellation, the greater the potential for finding unsuspected malignancies," said Strongin, who was not involved in the study. "Consequently, that should be a tremendous factor in physicians deciding whether it is appropriate to use that particular technique."
Women need to discuss the pros and cons of the procedure with their doctor, Wright said.
Weighing the risks and benefits is important, Strongin said. "[The study] shows the relative risk for women under 40 is very much different than for women who are over 65."
To learn more about morcellation, visit the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
SOURCES: Jason Wright, M.D., chief, gynecologic
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