If you’re facing a hysterectomy, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half a million women have a hysterectomy every year. In fact, about a third of all women will have their uterus removed by the time they are 60 years old.
If you think you know why women get hysterectomies, what’s removed, or how the surgery is done, think again. The facts about this common procedure might just surprise you. At New Beginnings OB-GYN, we’ve put together this list of three things you might not know about having a hysterectomy.
1. 90% of all hysterectomies in the United States are elective
Yes, you read that right. That doesn’t mean that women just wake up one day and ask their doctor to remove their uterus. What it means is that only about 10% of all hysterectomies are done because the woman’s life depends on it.
There are a variety of reasons why women get hysterectomies:
- Fibroids, benign tumors that can cause pain and heavy bleeding
- Endometriosis, where the endometrial lining grows outside the uterus in the abdominal cavity
- Adenomyosis, a condition where the uterine lining thickens
- Uterine prolapse
- Heavy cramps and bleeding
- Uterine cancer
Out of all of these conditions, only uterine cancer is life-threatening. The rest can all be treated in a variety of ways, but many — endometriosis and fibroids, among them — come back again and again. So some women who have completed their families or know that they no longer wish to have children opt for a hysterectomy to relieve the pain permanently.
2. There are many different types of hysterectomies
All hysterectomies remove at least part of the uterus, but not all hysterectomies are created equal.
A partial hysterectomy is also called a supracervical hysterectomy — so-named because the surgeon removes only the top part of the uterus and leaves the bottom, including the cervix, in place. A partial hysterectomy does not significantly affect your sex life since the vagina and cervix remain intact. But you do need to continue to get a pap smear to ensure that you don’t develop cervical cancer.
A total hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and cervix. In many cases, especially if the areas are affected by endometriosis or other conditions, the surgeon may also remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries, but many doctors leave the ovaries, if they can. The ovaries continue to make estrogen to keep you healthy as you age.
Surgeons rarely perform a radical hysterectomy, a procedure in which the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and any other affected abdominal organ are removed. A radical hysterectomy is usually performed when the doctor finds cancer.
3. There are different types of surgeries
In the case of a radical hysterectomy, the surgeon almost always performs an open incision or abdominal surgery. This type is the longest surgery and poses the most risk of blood loss, clots, and infection.
Another type of surgery used for hysterectomies is laparoscopic surgery. This surgery involves several small incisions that allow tiny cameras and surgical instruments to be inserted into the abdomen to remove the organ. You end up with a small scar at the bottom of your tummy where the organs are removed, with far less scarring than total abdominal surgery. Today, many laparoscopic hysterectomies are performed robotically.
Another common hysterectomy is a vaginal surgery. This surgery combines some of the aspects of laparoscopic surgery in that tiny incisions allow cameras and instruments into the abdomen, but the uterus is removed through the vagina. This method is often the shortest surgery and results in the least scarring.
Thankfully, you don’t have to decide which type of surgery is best for you, or even if you need a hysterectomy at all. You can call New Beginnings OB/GYN and discuss which options are best for you. Dr. Staci McHale is happy to sit down with you and come up with a plan that treats your whole body and keeps you healthy.