Pros, Cons, and Options
It’s a startling fact, but an estimated one in three women in the United States will have a hysterectomy by the age of 60. The operation, which involves surgical removal of all or part of the uterus, can lead to serious complications. Urinary incontinence, vaginal prolapse, fistula formation, and chronic pain are among some of the risks involved. Early, abrupt onset of menopause is another common result of hysterectomy.
According to a University of Michigan study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, nearly one in five women who undergo hysterectomy for benign conditions may not have needed the procedure. Further, the research from the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative found that alternatives to hysterectomy are underutilized in women with noncancerous, benign conditions, including endometriosis, uterine fibroids, abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB), or pelvic pain.
The study focused on collecting alternative treatment and pathology information from 52 participating hospitals for women who ultimately underwent a hysterectomy. More than 38% of women had no documentation of alternative treatment or consultation prior to surgery. Women older than 50 were also much less likely to have been advised of alternative treatment options. It is clear from the study that less invasive alternatives are not always given adequate, if any, consideration before the hysterectomy route is taken.
Alternatives to Hysterectomy
Being properly informed before undergoing any procedure or treatment should be foremost in any patient’s mind. Making a decision to alter the body in any significant way, especially undergoing surgery, should not be taken lightly. As the evidence from these studies shows, negligence in exploring all treatments prior to hysterectomy can lead to unnecessary surgery, as well as all the accompanying costs and risks.
The link between hormones and many benign conditions is extensive. If the body lacks progesterone and/or has too much estrogen, it may contribute to excessive fibroid growth. A surplus of estrogen and xenoestrogens—natural or synthetic chemical compounds that imitate estrogen in the body—is also thought to stimulate the cell growth of the displaced tissue common in endometriosis.
There is strong evidence that hormonal support, combined with changes in lifestyle, can improve and possibly alleviate heavy bleeding, endometriosis, and fibroids, and therefore eliminate the need for unnecessary hysterectomy. As there is a direct connection between hormones and these conditions, it makes sense to explore alternative approaches before choosing an invasive, possibly unnecessary method of treatment.
There has been success in controlling estrogen levels using bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). Safe and effective when used correctly, bioidentical hormones have the same molecular structure as the hormones you make in your body.
In addition to hormone therapy, lifestyle changes may also be needed for sustained balance and wellness. Stress, which is linked to cortisol, has been found to have a connection to uterine fibroids. Eating a balanced diet free of foods with artificial hormone disruptors, which can worsen endometriosis, is also important.
It is important to have conditions such as endometrial polyps, abnormal bleeding, fibroids and endometriosis evaluated by your gynecologist. There is the possibility that surgical treatment is the only choice but make sure that all of the surgical options are evaluated, including those less invasive than hysterectomy as mentioned earlier in this article. Although your condition may require surgical treatment, it is possible to prevent a recurrence with improved hormone balance.
Physicians in the BodyLogicMD network have advanced training in hormone balance and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Their goal is to address health by looking at the body as a whole, helping patients lead a balanced lifestyle. If this sounds like you, your wife, mother, sister, or friend, contact the BodyLogicMD doctor nearest you to schedule an appointment and learn more about how bioidentical hormone therapy may be used instead of hysterectomy to treat heavy bleeding, endometriosis, fibroids, and more.