AUSTIN, Texas – Kathryn Norris needed to have a tumor removed.
But she never thought the doctor would use a method that captures the tumor inside her body.
Minimally-Invasive Gynecologic Surgeon Dr. Greg Marchand told her he'd be using his version of in bag morcellation. He'd go in laparoscopically, break up the tumor and remove it with this device, minimizing the risk of spreading disease.
"It was very comforting to know that this procedure was going to hopefully contain everything so it would not be infiltrating other parts of my body and stuff like that," said Kathryn.
Basically, Dr. Marchand cuts the tumor free, and bags it up.
"You know mine is a technique that relies on bringing the mass up to the instruments, as opposed to going in after it with the instruments and using blunt instruments to make sure you don't rupture the bag in any way," explained Dr. Marchand.
Morcellation has been criticized for its potential to spread cancer cells, which led to an FDA black box warning in 2014 on power morcellation devices.
As a result, they are not usually used anymore.
The alternative however, of cutting a patient open with a much larger incision also has its drawbacks and risks. In bag morcellation, using an incision smaller than a dime, allows a surgeon to cut the tumor free, then bag it. They then exteriorize the mouth of the bag, and break the tumor into pieces, removing each piece. This technique is minimally invasive, allowing the patient to usually go home the same day as surgery.
"Since this mouth of the bag is exteriorized on the outside of the patient, there's really no danger of this tremendous mass getting around and falling back in.," he said.
This allows patients like Kathryn to go home the night of surgery.
"I was feeling really pretty darn good. I did not think that I would be able to leave that quickly."
Dr. Marchand's motivation for helping patients recover quickly, stems from his own minimally-invasive surgery for testicular cancer.
"When I woke up from that procedure, I really felt strong. I felt ready to fight the cancer, and I really hope that that's the feeling I give my patients."
Kathryn Norris's tumor turned out to be cancerous, but she hasn't had to have any treatment other than regular blood tests looking for tumor markers.
BACKGROUND: Most noncancerous tumors and cysts do not cause any symptoms; however some cause a feeling of heaviness or pain in the pelvic area. Doctors may detect a growth during a pelvic examination, but they must use ultrasonography to confirm the diagnosis. Some cysts do disappear on their own, but most may be removed through one or more small incisions or just one large incision into the abdomen. On occasion, the affected ovary may also need to be removed. Cysts are fluid-filled sacks that form on or in an ovary, most are benign, and cancerous cysts are more likely to occur in women over the age of 40. (Source: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/women-s-health-issues/noncancerous-gynecologic-abnormalities/noncancerous-ovarian-growths)
If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at email@example.com.