Discussing sarcoma risks during informed consent for nonhysterectomy management of fibroids: an unmet need

Published:September 23, 2017DOI:
      There is no reliable way to distinguish symptomatic uterine fibroids from sarcoma without a surgical specimen. Many women with a uterine sarcoma are initially managed without hysterectomy under a presumed fibroid diagnosis, without understanding sarcoma risks. Currently many alternatives to hysterectomy, including medical and procedural interventions, for treatment of fibroids are promoted. The sarcoma incidence among women with presumed fibroids is 0.29% (1/340) to 0.05% (1/2000). Nonmetastatic leiomyosarcoma has a 63% 5-year survival rate whereas metastatic leiomyosarcoma has a 14% 5-year survival rate. In uterine sarcoma, we often cannot identify who has sarcoma before making a potentially cure-denying decision by delaying surgery. Therefore, women electing an alternative to hysterectomy for fibroids should undergo an informed consent process that specifically includes discussion of uterine sarcoma incidence and mortality. Alternatives to hysterectomy for presumed fibroids remain preferable treatment options for many women with symptomatic fibroids, so long as underlying sarcoma risks are adequately discussed. The challenge for obstetrician- gynecologists then is how to provide better informed consent and maintain the primacy of patient autonomy over our concern to “First, do no harm.” Major threats to patient’s autonomy are faced in the sarcoma risk discussion. How we should present sarcoma risk information to avoid being dismissive of sarcoma or frightening women toward hysterectomy is unstudied. Research is needed to determine how to provide sarcoma risk information with less bias during informed consent.

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