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Patient-safety advocate Amy Reed recovering from 'high-risk' surgery

Amy Reed, the doctor who has fought for a ban on the gynecological surgery device that worsened her uterine cancer prognosis, is recovering from a high-risk operation to treat her latest recurrence, according to her husband, cardiac surgeon Hooman Noorchashm. The couple have frequently blogged for about their efforts.

Reed, 43, of Yardley, had a recurrence that was initially detected in her pelvis, in the area where a tissue-slicing device called a morcellator was used to perform her hysterectomy in October 2013.

Her latest battle against leiomyosarcoma comes as Philadelphia Magazine announced that Reed is leading four finalists for its "Be Well Philly Health Hero Challenge." Reed was nominated for using her ordeal to found Slay Sarcoma, a nonprofit that raises awareness of and research funding for leiomyosarcoma. Magazine readers voted throughout September and October. The winner, to be named next month, will receive $10,000.

Reed's latest tumor eventually blocked her bowel and a major vein in her leg, necessitating Monday's surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, her husband said.

"The procedure was high risk, and involved resection of the mass, extensive bowel resection and vascular repair," he emailed. "She is recovering well under the care of our colleagues and friends at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania."

Electric morcellators were developed to enable the uterus or uterine fibroids to be removed through small abdominal incisions rather than a big belly incision, thus reducing blood loss and speeding recovery.

But if undiagnosed cancer is present, the device can hurl bits of cancer throughout the pelvis and abdominal cavity, likely worsening the already-grim survival odds that leiomyosarcoma patients face.

Before Reed and Noorchasm turned their tragedy into a public health campaign, doctors thought her complication was ultrarare, affecting maybe 1 in 10,000 women who have a hysterectomy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now estimates the odds at 1 in 350 hysterectomy patients.

Although the FDA hasn't banned the device, it has issued warnings that have sharply curtailed usage. The leading maker of the product also took its brand off the market, and the nation's major health insurers have restricted usage and require prior authorization.

Read more Diagnosis: Cancer here »