Here are a few factors to consider when making this important decision.
What is a hysterectomy?
Hysterectomy is a surgery that removes all or part of the uterus. Some of the most common reasons for hysterectomy are:
- Uterine, cervical or ovarian cancer
- Uterine fibroids
- Uterine prolapse
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Heavy bleeding
- Pain during intercourse.
When is hysterectomy medically necessary?
“For life-threatening conditions like cancer, hysterectomy is necessary. It’s also recommended when pain affects quality of life,” says Jorge Saldivar, MD, OB-GYN, president of the medical staff at Methodist Charlton Medical Center. “I tell patients, ‘I recommend a hysterectomy as the treatment of choice for your condition, but I will leave it up to you to tell me when you need it.’”
When is hysterectomy a choice?
Patients may choose less invasive options for non-life-threatening conditions. For example, uterine fibroid embolization shrinks fibroids with small particles delivered to the uterus via a thin tube. Endometrial ablation treats heavy bleeding by removing a thin layer of tissue in the uterus.
“Patients should discuss all the options with their doctor, and make an informed decision,” says DeShawndranique Gray, MD, FACOG, OB-GYN on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton.
What are the benefits of hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy can prevent cancer from spreading, prevent bleeding and anemia, and alleviate pain from endometriosis or fibroids. It can also eliminate pain during intercourse or when using the restroom.
What are the drawbacks of hysterectomy?
Risks include pain, bleeding, infection, injury to adjacent organs, and adhesions or scar tissue. Hysterectomy prevents pregnancy.
“Alternative treatments are better for women who still want to have children,” Dr. Gray says. “Another concern is sexual dysfunction or feeling like ‘less of a woman.’ But hysterectomy only removes the uterus, not the ovaries. The uterus doesn’t produce hormones or regulate sexual desire, the ovaries do. So sexual function is usually unaffected.”
Are robotic hysterectomies better?
Robot-assisted hysterectomies using da Vinci® technology are less painful and offer a faster recovery than traditional procedures.
“Patients often say their mother warned them they would be down for a month. But this is not your mother’s hysterectomy,” Dr. Saldivar says. “With laparoscopic and robotic surgery, we can make a quarter-inch incision instead of a large abdominal incision. Most of my patients go home the same day they have surgery.”