Traditional medicine has routinely rcommended removal of the uterus, hysterectomy, for uterine and ovarian malignancy, however physicians also advocate hysterectomy for benign diseases like fibroids, adenomyosis, and endometriosis. Recent studies (LA Times article, published August 10, 2009 entitled “Staying Fertile after Cancer”) on Stage 1 ovarian cancer patients have found that preserving the uterus and unaffected ovary have the same 5 year survival rates as removing all organs. If medicine is changing to reduce hysterectomies for certain cancers, lets hope they will eventually see the need to prevent hysterectomy for benign diseases as well.
Young women might be able to preserve their fertility despite a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Recent studies, based on a publication this month in Cancer, have found that 5 year survival rates are the same for both patients that remove all female organs (both ovaries and uterus) and those that only removed the affected ovary. This is strictly for early diagnosed Stage 1 (one) malignancies in premenopausal women . This is great news for women hoping to preserve their female organs. Regardless of fertility desires, prematurely removing the uterus and ovaries can thrust women into early menopause. This can expose the woman to all the negative side effects of early castration: hot flashes, dry vagina, osteoporosis, heart disease and early death and dementia. Ask your doctor is you can be a candidate to preserve your female organs.
The complications associated with a hysterectomy, removal of the uterus, are multiple. Up to 75% of women have negative long term effects after this procedure. Most commonly seen are hormone imbalance (even when ovaries are saved), depression, bladder problems with either incomplete emptying of urine or incontinence, constipation and sexual dysfunction. Short of cancer, and sometimes uterine prolapse, we recommend saving the uterus. If you are having monthly problems……or have been diagnosed with a benign disease like fibroids or adenomyosis, treat the diseases but do NOT remove the uterus, especially as the first line of attack.
In my opinion, Hysterectomy, the removal of the uterus, is one of the most overrated surgical procedures in this country. Statistics indicate that we perform over 650,000 annually and 80% of those are for non-cancerous conditions like fibroids, adenomyosis and endometriosis. Many doctors will recommend hysterectomy simply to relieve monthly symptoms: heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, and abdominal bloating and discomfort, without giving consideration to post surgical long term irreversible side effects. Hysterectomy is mandatory for cancer and in some women for Stage 4 uterine prolapse, however we never advocate hysterectomy for benign diseases like fibroid tumors, also known as myomas and leiomyomas. The uterus has many functions and should be considered worth saving for long term health benefits….dont remove it unless you have to!