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FDA: Common tool used in uterine surgery may help spread cancer

The Food and Drug Administration is warning against the use of a device for uterine surgery that risks spreading cancerous tissue.

Laparoscopic power morcellators are used in at least 50,000 surgeries every year, The New York Times reports. They work by slicing tissue into pieces that can be pulled out of the body through small incisions. Morcellators have blades that spin quickly, and in a person who had undiagnosed cancer, they can send malignant cells flying around the abdomen, advancing cancer.

The FDA estimates that 1 in 350 women who have fibroid surgery have previously undetected sarcomas, an aggressive and often fatal type of cancer. While it is not banning the use of morcellators, the FDA does recommend that surgeons avoid using the tools on women who have reached menopause, or who doctors believe could have cancer.