Hysterectomy can erode rather than enhance the quality of your life. It’s long-term consequences for physical, emotional and sexual health present a risk not worth taking for the vast majority of women who undergo hysterectomy each year. The uterus and ovaries, far from being useless once they have fulfilled their primary reproductive roles, are essential to a woman’s continued health and well-being.
There is almost always an alternative to hysterectomy. Women should always ask, “What are my alternatives?” Regardless of your gynecological problem, fibroids, endometriosis, prolapse, ovarian cysts, PID, PMS, even those frightening precancerous conditions – the “right” answer will be something other than hysterectomy.
Another reason why doctors don’t like myomectomy is because each operation is different. Although the ultrasound pictures provide a rough idea of what to expect, doctors never can be completely sure of what they will find when they open the abdomen. A surgeon who doesn’t like a challenge – or surprises – is never going to be happy performing myomectomies.
Myomectomy requires more skill, but surgical skills can be acquired. There is no reason why any surgeon who wants to, can’t learn to perform a myomectomy. However, all too often students are less than enthusiastic about adding myomectomy to their surgical repertoire. This reluctance may stem from economic considerations: a doctor can earn more money by doing several hysterectomies in the time it may take to do one complicated myomectomy. It takes time to get extra training and develop the surgical skills necessary to feel comfortable performing myomectomies. This state of affairs will change only when women reject hysterectomies and insist on alternative treatments.
Technologically, there is now so much physicians can offer to help you avoid hysterectomy. The challenge informed women face is to persuade doctors to turn away from the ill-conceived biases of the past, and turn to treatments of the future. Women have a right to make decisions about their health and health care on the basis of all available information, free from pressure, scare tactics, and outdated doctor-knows-best paternalism.
To be fair, the vast majority of gynecologists have nothing but their patients’ welfare in mind when they recommend hysterectomy and would be genuinely shocked and shaken to find that by relying too heavily on the surgery they have been unnecessarily harming women.
Part of the problem is due to medical complacency, the tendency of doctors to practice medicine as they were taught in school. Part is due to the lack of awareness among doctors and their patients of the potential aftermath of hysterectomy. And part is due to a yawning communications gap between doctors and their patients.
But nothing will change until more women look their doctors in the eye and calmly state their determination to keep their reproductive organs intact.