Dr. Greg J. Marchand is saving lives and setting records.
The Tempe resident, whose offices are in Mesa, has become the first U.S. surgeon with a world record for minimally invasive procedures. He also is among the first surgeons in the U.S. to be awarded the prestigious Master Surgeon designation by the Surgical Review Corporation.
The World Record Academy awarded Marchand and his surgical team honors for relying on an incision smaller than a dime to remove a 6.69-inch-diameter cancerous ovarian tumor the size of a small soccer ball.
This is the second world record in laparoscopic surgery for the board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, who is also a cancer survivor. In 2008, Marchand was awarded a Guinness World Record for removing the largest uterus laparoscopically. That seven-pound uterus was not cancerous.
First used more than 30 years ago, laparoscopy is camera-aided surgery or diagnostic inspection in the abdomen or pelvis through very small incisions.
Working with a gynecologic oncologist, Marchand uses an Edocatch bag at the lip of the incision to isolate a tumor and then break it down so it can be removed.
While removing cysts and tumors laparoscopically is common, rarely is it used with an ovarian cancer staging procedure, explained Marchand, who is also the first U.S. surgeon to receive recognition as a Surgeon of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Surgery from the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists and the Surgical Review Corporation.
Marchand did not invent the in-bag technique, which doctors have used for almost 20 years.
“My procedure is unique in that after isolating the tumor, I cut those particles inside the bag and remove them individually through the small incision,” he said.
The most difficult part of the surgery is removing the cancerous mass without spilling any cancer cells into the abdomen.
“If cancerous material spilled back into the abdomen, the cancer might spread,” said Marchand, a Providence, Rhode Island, native who came to the Valley 13 years ago after his residency at the University of Tennessee in Memphis to learn minimally invasive surgery.
The advantages of the procedure are many, he explained.
“For one, it allows us to remove very large tumors without having to make a large incision, which, otherwise, could run from the stomach to the sternum. The tiny hole creates minimal scarring. And because of the small incision, pain is much less,” Marchand said.
Less patient risk and cost are also benefits.
The woman with the large tumor had entered the Banner Desert Mesa emergency room in April 2015. Marchand did the surgery after a CAT scan and blood tests were completed, and she left the hospital that afternoon – a typical scenario.
“She has done very well without any additional treatments,” he said, noting that a full recovery period is considered five years, after which a patient without metastasis or reoccurrence is considered cured.
The record for this tumor removal required the World Record Academy two years to verify, he explained. Marchand has completed more than 500 of these procedures.
“Because of the quick hospital stay, there’s less risk of complications, recovery time is accelerated and the use of chemotherapy and other medications is reduced,” he said. “The patient can get back to living a normal life so much faster.”
Another Marchand patient, Kathryn Norris, had the in-bag morcellation surgery for an ovarian tumor in June 2016 after entering the emergency room at Desert Samaritan Hospital in Mesa.
The 20-year Mesa resident and ASU graduate was released that afternoon to begin her recovery at home. “This was my first surgery of this kind, and the small size of the incision amazed me,” she said.
Every few months, she sees Marchand, now her gynecologist.
“So far, I’m doing very well, have had no chemo and I am in the safe-range period on all my tests,” Norris said. “I am very grateful for the surgery and to Dr. Marchand.”
He is grateful, too. Every surgery he does, he does with a special commitment as a result of being diagnosed in 2010 with mixed-cell carcinoma, an aggressive testicular cancer.
“Like anyone, when I was diagnosed, I panicked,” he said. “But when I woke up from the minimally invasive surgery, I was ready to go home. I said to myself, ‘I can do this.’”
He’s been in remission since, helping others do it, too.
“Advancements in the surgical treatment of cancer are just as important as the newest cancer-fighting drugs and chemotherapy agents,” he said, noting that robotics and micro-instrumentation may refine the in-bag morcellation procedure even more.
“If we can use minimally invasive surgery to take some of the recovery time and complications out of cancer surgery,” he added, “then I think we’ve really done a lot of good helping patients fighting cancer.”