Couple That Fought to Ban Medical Procedure After Wife's Cancer Looks Back at Year of Changes

PHOTO: Hooman Noorchashm and his wife, Amy Reed, have been trying to ban practice of surgical morcellation.

After nearly a year of campaigning to ban a procedure favored by the medical community and dealing with his wife's life-threatening cancer diagnosis, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm said he finally feels his family is on solid ground again.

"We think we’ve landed on our feet. It’s been a whirlwind for almost the past year now," Noorchashm told ABC News.

Noorchashm, a cardio-thoracic surgeon, and his wife Dr. Amy Reed, a certified-anesthesiologist, spearheaded a campaign last fall to ban the practice of using laparoscopic power morcellation in the removal of uterine fibroids or the uterus due to possible cancer risks.

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PHOTO: Hooman Noorchashm and Amy Reed spoke at an FDA panel about the dangers of laparoscopic morcellation to remove uterine fibroids or the uterus.
Hooman Noorchashm
PHOTO: Hooman Noorchashm and Amy Reed spoke at an FDA panel about the dangers of laparoscopic morcellation to remove uterine fibroids or the uterus.

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The couple has first-hand knowledge of how devastating the procedure can be after Reed underwent the surgery last October to remove uterine fibroids. According to the couple and confirmed by Brigham and Women's Hospital, as Reed underwent the procedure—where the fibroids are broken up and removed through small incisions-- an undetected virulent cancer called leiomyosarcoma hidden in the fibroids was ground up along with the fibroids as they were removed.

As the device ground up fibroids for removal, it may have also spread the cancer throughout her abdomen.

Noorchashm told ABC News he was shocked and angry after hearing in detail how the procedure spread the undetected cancer.

"Within minutes of hearing of my wife's diagnosis. I just knew this was wrong," Noorchashm said of the procedure.

At the time of Reed's surgery, it was unclear what the likelihood a person undergoing the procedure would have undetected cancer.

A 2012 study published in the Public Library of Science found that in 1,091 morcellation procedures performed at Brigham and Women's Hospital over five years, only one woman was found to have leiomyosarcoma, the same virulent undetected cancer as Reed's.

Within weeks, Noorchashm was talking to other doctors and asking to get more information about these kinds of procedures and reaching out to other women who experienced something similar. He and Reed started a petition to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the procedure.

Within months, two Boston hospitals, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (where Noorchashm was employed and Reed was treated), agreed to first review the procedures and then limit occasions when the procedures would be used.

But Noorchashm wanted a more permanent answer. He temporarily stopped working 90 hours a week as a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and started applying that time to supporting his wife during her treatment and working to get the procedure banned.

"I basically used the same intensity I brought to work and focused it on this," said Noorchashm. "What you're seeing here is a large volume of time and non-stop sustained [work] in order to make a change."

In the months after Noorchashm and Reed started their petition, at least two medical articles were published in the Journal of American Medical Association questioning the safety of the procedure.

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