The very first abdominal hysterectomy in history was performed by Charles Clay in Manchester, England in 1843. Since then, it has become the most common non-pregnancy-related major surgery performed on women.
To put it simply, a hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman’s uterus. In a majority of cases, the ovaries are also taken out at the same time. If cancer is involved, the cervix and part of the vagina will also be removed.
The word “hysterectomy” comes to us from the Greek words for “womb” and “cutting out.” Rather straightforward, actually. It might be said that the United States is the hysterectomy capital of the world, as over 600,000 of these procedures are performed every year. This comes out to a hysterectomy health bill of about $1,000,000,000 – a tidy sum.
Who Needs a Hysterectomy?
There are actually several good reasons for getting a hysterectomy, such as uterine or ovarian cancer. However, it is estimated that 90% of hysterectomies are performed for benign conditions such as fibroid tumors or endometriosis.
Fibroid tumors are benign growths in the uterus and they can cause heavy bleeding. Endometriosis also causes heavy bleeding during menstrual periods, as well as pain and discomfort. However, it is generally possible to treat these conditions with much less drastic measures.
If a hysterectomy is done, it will be done in one of three ways:
- Abdominal surgery where an incision is made down the abdomen. This is the most invasive kind of surgery.
- Laparoscopy is much kinder to the body as it relies on only small incisions and the use of a tube with a light to direct the surgeon’s instruments.
- Many prefer to use a vaginal removal, which basically speaks for itself.
Who Needs a Womb?
Judging from the horrendous number of probably pointless hysterectomies done every year, you might begin to wonder why women were saddled with a uterus and ovaries in the first place. It was the common consensus for decades (and still is to a great degree) that once childbearing is finished every woman should have a hysterectomy.
As is usually the case, nature knows best, and there are a number of rather nasty health complications that can arise as a result of a hysterectomy:
- Increased chance of heart disease
- Most likelihood of developing osteoporosis
- Sexual dysfunction
- Chronic constipation
- Weight gain
- Instant menopause
If only 10% of hysterectomies are actually needed because of cancer, why are so many being performed? It’s hard to deny that money is not part of the diagnostic process.
Any woman who has had her doctor recommend a hysterectomy for non-cancerous reasons should definitely get a second opinion and look into alternate treatments. This is a life-changing procedure that should not be taken lightly. Even if a diagnosis of cancer has been given, it is still a good idea to discuss the course of treatment with another surgeon.
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