Hysterectomy Pros and Cons List
Hysterectomies are the second most common surgery performed on women in the United States after cesarean sections. Around the developed world, it is becoming more and more common for women to have hysterectomies done for a variety of reasons.
Some doctors are advocating for other avenues of treatment to be explored before considering a hysterectomy. While removing the uterus can solve several health problems in women, it can also create others. Here are some pros and cons to keep in mind if you are experiencing any health problems that a hysterectomy may be able to cure.
List of Pros of Hysterectomies
1. A Hysterectomy Eases Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding
The number one reason women have hysterectomies performed is to stop abnormal menstrual bleeding. Abnormal bleeding is draining, uncomfortable, and often hard to deal with in social situations. In some situations, there is moderate to severe pain associated with the bleeding. There are other treatment options available, such as uterine balloon therapy. Hysterectomies still have higher success rates than these other treatments, however, which is why they remain the most common solution to this problem.
While abnormal bleeding is not a life-threatening condition, many women do choose to have hysterectomies in order to correct the problem. Particularly for women who have already had children or who do not want children, this is a viable alternative. Living with abnormal bleeding is not easy. The inevitable cycle drags women down into a hopeless situation of having to live with this condition for years. While there are treatment options available in order to help women cope with having abnormal menstrual bleeding, having a hysterectomy is a permanent solution to their condition.
2. A Hysterectomy Prevents Uterine Cancer
From women uterine cancer, a hysterectomy can literally save their life. Removing the uterus is this situation removes the cancer cells as well, preventing them from spreading to other parts of the body. Women who have had other cancerous growths in the past, or women with a family history of uterine cancer, often choose to have a hysterectomy even if they are not exhibiting signs of uterine cancer in order to avoid any future complications.
Ovarian cancer can also be treated with a total hysterectomy. As with uterine cancer, this removes the cancer cells from the body. Unlike other methods of treating cancer, this guarantees that the cells will not spread. Even in cases where the cancer symptoms have not become life threatening, removing the infected organ immediately gives women peace of mind about their future. Though a hysterectomy is not without its own risks, it is as of now the most guaranteed method of stopping cancer symptoms and preventing future problems.
3. A Hysterectomy Treats Uterine Prolapse
Uterine prolapse is a condition in which the uterus descends into the vagina. This is often due to loose ligaments or damage to the pelvic muscles. This occurs more often in women who have had multiple vaginal births, though there are other causes. Often the symptoms of this condition are not severe enough to warrant treatment. Many women never seek treatment for uterine prolapse.
Sometimes, however, symptoms may become more severe and treatment becomes necessary. Losing weight and avoiding heavy lifting can help prevent the need for treatment. A vaginal pessary may be inserted to hold the uterus in place. While this works as a long term solution for many women, other experience irritation and may even develop ulcers due to the pessary. In those cases, a hysterectomy that completely removes the uterus solves the problem. Doctors can correct and problems caused by the prolapse such as sagging vaginal walls or damage to the urethra and bladder at the same time that the hysterectomy is performed.
List of Cons of Hysterectomies
1. A Hysterectomy is a Major Surgery
While some women see hysterectomies as an easy and guaranteed solution to their problem, it is still a major surgery. In a partial hysterectomy, the uterus is removed. In a total hysterectomy, the ovaries, cervix, and fallopian tube are taken out along with the uterus. Either way, this is an invasive surgery that comes with a long recovery time and carries the same risks as other major surgeries.
Some of the severe side effects that could result from having a hysterectomy include bleeding or blood clots, infection, damage to nearby tissue, and bladder and intestinal issues. Additional surgeries may be required to correct these problems. Some people have been known to have an adverse reaction to anesthesia and in rare cases death may occur. A long rest period will have to follow the operation, lasting anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks and sometimes even longer if complications arise.
2. Ovaries Perform Necessary Functions
A total hysterectomy is sometimes necessary, as when cancer cells are found in the ovaries, but it should be avoided if at all possible. Women who are past menopause often feel that they no longer have any use for their reproductive organs. But the uterus, and particularly the ovaries, perform many other necessary functions long after childbearing is no longer an issue.
One of the most important jobs that the ovaries perform is to produce hormones. Even after menopause, the ovaries continue to produce estrogen, ovarian testosterone and androstenedione, among other hormones. Studies have shown that the loss of these hormones can lead to other serious health problems including heart disease and hip fracture. While these issues can be addressed with hormone treatment therapy, by far the best option is to leave the ovaries intact unless their removal is absolutely critical to survival.
3. There Are Severe Emotional Repercussions
One of the most emotionally charged side effects to a hysterectomy is the loss of fertility. This can be particularly damaging to a woman with a medical condition that creates the need for a hysterectomy while she is still capable of having more children. Some women also experience a loss of self-esteem, even if they already have children or never wanted to have any.
A hysterectomy triggers menopause instantly, no matter what age a woman is when she has the procedure. This also has a large emotional effect on women, particularly those who are much younger than the average age for the onset of menopause. Menopause also has a sexual impact on a woman’s life. While many women report that they eventually returned to their normal sexual activity level, there is a recovery time in which sexual intercourse may be physically or emotionally difficult.
Understanding The Facts of Hysterectomies
Whether or not a woman has a hysterectomy is an extremely personal decision. There are many more factors than the ones listed here that need to be considered before such a large step should be taken. Women should consult with their doctor and be very open with any questions or concerns they have about the procedure.
There are certain conditions that necessitate the removal of the uterus and other reproductive organs and there are other conditions that can certainly be helped by this procedure. Despite how common hysterectomies have become, they should not be done lightly. Women who are considering having a hysterectomy should take the time to make sure they understand all of the risks that are associated with this major surgery. Above all, no woman should feel pressured into this procedure. There are always other treatment options that can be explored.
Many women who have opted to have hysterectomies due to chronic pain and abnormal bleeding report that the surgery has improved their quality of life. There are times when the surgery can be used to treat chronic conditions and even save lives. There are many resources available on the benefits and dangers of hysterectomies. No decision should be made until all of the proper information has been gathered.
As research into these conditions continues, more and more alternative treatments are becoming available. At the same time, treatments are also being developed to address the long term side effects of hysterectomies. A woman’s personal physician is the best person to consult to learn about the current treatment options and their possible consequences.
Just because many of the conditions that hysterectomies are used to treat are not life threatening does not mean that women have to live with them. The field of modern medicine is constantly advancing, improving the quality of life for people all over the world.