Statement of National Center for Health Research Supporting A CDC Review to Save Women’s Lives

The National Center for Health Research strongly supports the announcement that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may conduct a review of the potential benefits of biopsies for women scheduled for hysterectomy or fibroid removal.  The review is essential because a recent article, published in the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology reports that the rate of unsuspected cancer is dangerously high in women undergoing hysterectomy. When those women undergo surgery, particularly procedures involving a medical device called a power morcellator, the cancer can spread inside the woman’s abdomen, resulting in an early-stage cancer being upstaged to a much more dangerous metastatic (stage 4) cancer.  The risks are especially high for women ages 55 and older, reaching almost 10% for undiagnosed uterine cancer.

The study authors, from Yale Medical School and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, studied more than 26,000 women who underwent hysterectomy or fibroid removal, and found that undetected cancers were much higher than previously estimated.  The implications are that the FDA’s warnings regarding the risk of power morcellation, which estimated one hidden cancer in every 352 women, are inadequate to provide informed consent for patients considering these surgical procedures.

We thank Dr. Redfield for his attention to this matter and urge the CDC leadership to move forward as soon as possible to develop guidelines pertaining to tissue biopsy methods that will identify women with gynecological cancer before the women undergo a surgical procedure to remove the uterus or fibroid.  Such testing could save thousands of women’s lives.

Diana Zuckerman, PhD
See our related letter to CDC Dirtector Dr. Robert Redfield here.