Women with certain health reproductive health concerns, such as cancer, may be advised to have a hysterectomy – a surgery to remove the womb. Here, Marla Ahlgrimm offers answers to common questions about the procedure.
Q: What is a hysterectomy?
Marla Ahlgrimm: A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure where a woman’s uterus, and sometimes the ovaries and fallopian tubes, are removed. It is considered a major surgery and may require hospitalization.
Q: What are some conditions that might warrant a hysterectomy?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Hysterectomy surgery is not something to be considered unless extreme circumstances are present. Women with painful uterine fibroids, heavy or unusual vaginal bleeding, and uterine prolapse may be advised to have a hysterectomy to prevent other medical conditions. Endometriosis and adenomyosis, both conditions characterized by abnormal uterine tissue growth, may become severe enough that a hysterectomy is the only viable treatment. Women who cannot have radiation or chemotherapy or have persistent cancer of the cervix, ovaries, or uterus, may be advised to have a hysterectomy to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.
Q: Are there alternatives to having a hysterectomy?
Marla Ahlgrimm: That depends on the condition. Sometimes, a hysterectomy may be necessitated by medical needs. However, women with uterine fibroids may take a wait-and-see approach as these tend to shrink at the completion of menopause. Endometriosis may be treated with certain medications. Uterine prolapse and other conditions may be eased via less invasive surgeries.
Q: Will a hysterectomy trigger menopause?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Every woman who undergoes hysterectomy surgery will cease having a period. Women who keep their ovaries should not have immediate menopause symptoms but will likely enter menopause a few years earlier than normal. It is sometimes necessary for both ovaries to be removed during hysterectomy. In this case, menopause will begin right away as hormone levels drop quickly. Hormone replacement therapy is the most viable way to manage hysterectomy-induced menopause.