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She Campaigned Against The Medical Device That Caused Her Cancer; Now She Dies At 57

By Joana Verdeflor , Jan 20, 2017 07:42 PM EST
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A woman from Pittsburgh was diagnosed with cancer following surgery using a power morcellator. She then spent her life raising awareness on the dangers of the said device- before she died from the disease at the age of 57.

Bonnie Davis Underwent Hysterectomy in 2012 For Unterine Fibroids

In 2012, Bonnie Davis, had a hysterectomy with a power morcellator to remove uterine fibroids. Davis was healthy, until six days after the surgery, doctors informed her that they found a cancer called leiomyosarcoma. She was told that the cancer was in its advanced stage already and with poor prognosis. With this Davis decided to begin therapy.

FDA has already exerted efforts raising awareness about the health risks involved in using the device. According to the agency, it could spread undiagnosed cancer to 1 in 350 women.

"If morcellation is performed on these women, there is a risk that the procedure will spread the cancerous tissue within the abdomen and pelvis, significantly worsening the patient's likelihood of long-term survival," confirmed FDA.

Davis, having had first hand experience of the dangers it can cause, advocated for a morcellator ban. She helped in disseminating information regarding the risks of uterine cancer accompanied in using the device.

What is a Power Morcellator?

A power morcellator is a device that resembles a drill. Surgeons use the morcellator in minimally invasive gynaecological procedures like laparoscopic hysterectomies and fibroid removal.

The device chops up the tissues to facilitate ease in removal by making small incisions in the abdomen. This technique allows for smaller incisions therefore lesser blood loss, fewer complications, and a swifter recovery period.

Every year, surgeons perform half a million hysterectomy procedures in the U.S. By 2012, 63 percent made use of morcellators.

Davis Instrumental In The Highmark Morcellator Payment Ban

Johnson & Johnson removed three of its morcellators in the market, upon FDA's warning. Insurance companies have also taken efforts in reviewing the device. In fact, a number of the insurance companies decided to stop paying doctors who perform procedures using them.

In September 2014, Pittsburg-based Highmark was among the first companies to stop paying for power morcellator procedures. Davis works as an administrative assistant in the said company.

"One of our people went through this," according to Highmark President and CEO David Holmberg. Davis has been very vocal about her campaign against morcellators- sharing her experience after her surgery. This prompted Highmark to research about the device and ban reimbursement.

Davis spoke out against morcellators after her surgery and her experience led to Highmark's research into morcellators and ban on reimbursement, Dr. Don Fischer - whom Davis worked for at Highmark. At the time, he was chief medical officer.

"She provided incredible support and judgement," said Dr. Don Fischer, chief medical officer at the time when Davis was employed at Highmark.

The use of the power morcellator declined heavily following FDA warnings, but the device remains to be available in the market to date.

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