Women: You Have Alternatives to Hysterectomy

If you're a woman, receiving the news that you have to have a hysterectomy can be a very scary thing. The good news is that breakthroughs in modern medicine can provide a hysterectomy alternative, but don't take our word for it. When you read different women's stories about their hysterectomy diagnoses, keep in mind that information is key to finding the right hysterectomy alternative for you. We uncover the truth behind hysterectomy alternatives, and hope that you'll find a solution to having a hysterectomy.

When Heidi Hormel started cramping and bleeding heavily in 1998, the Hanover, Pa., public relations professional feared the worst. Her periods always had been light, but now, at 35, her pads were soaked within an hour, and strangely bright red. During an ultrasound, the technician gasped, saying: "never seen anything like it."

The growth, in the muscle tissue of her uterus, was a fibroid — common enough, and usually benign. But the doctor said Heidi's fibroid was odd-looking, and potentially cancerous. And since Heidi didn't want to have children, the doctor advised her to have her uterus removed.

Hormel was terrified. Her own mother had had a horrible experience with her own hysterectomy that nearly sent her straight into menopause. "When they said hysterectomy was what I should do I was so upset," said Hormel. "That was one thing I've always said I'd never have done."

Carla Dionne, a Ventura County, Calif. mother of three nearly leaped at her doctor's recommendation for a hysterectomy when, at 40, she suffered massive bleeding, blood clots the size of a quarter, and a weight gain that made her look six months pregnant.

"I barely made it through a day. I was housebound. I was changing pads all the time. I was anemic and exhausted. I wasn't much of a mother — my kids were taking care of me. I was scared and the doctors kept saying, 'You're not having any more kids, just get rid of your uterus.' I almost did."

Nancy Ryan, a 43-year-old programmer who lives on Long Island, was told by her gynecologist that "the only way to get rid of this [fibroid] for sure is hysterectomy."

None of these women were told of — or knew about — other options to treat their fibroids. In fact, it wasn't until after Ryan did an Internet search that she learned about myomectomy — a minimally invasive technology to treat her fibroid.

Too Many Hysterectomies?

Unfortunately, despite medical advances, women aren't always informed by their doctors of alternatives to hysterectomy — alternatives that can reduce the need for anesthesia, long hospital stays and lengthy recovery times. What's more, there is concern that not all women who receive hysterectomies need them.

In a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology last year, researchers found that hysterectomies had been "inappropriately" recommended to 367 of 497 women. In another study, 16% of women in seven health-care plans were found to have undergone hysterectomies for "clinically" wrong reasons. "We found quite a few women who weren't offered less invasive treatment. It's very disturbing," said Dr. Michael Broder, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California School of Medicine in Los Angeles. "It seems pretty likely there are more hysterectomies done in this country than can be justified..."

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