Spurred by these comments, and by my need to prepare to attend the HERS Hysterectomy Conference this coming Saturday, I did some research and found a smoking gun right on the website of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It's an August, 2005 article (scroll down the search page to the 7th article) that appeared in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. Apparently, it's not required reading for the practicing physicians who continue to castrate women.
Called "Ovarian Conservation at the Time of Hysterectomy for Benign Disease," it takes a comprehensive look at the risks and benefits of removing a woman's ovaries at the same time that she has a hysterectomy for non-cancerous problems like fibroids and heavy bleeding. As far as I can tell at this point, it appears to be one of the latest investigations of the issue, which, despite its importance to women, has not been the subject of much research at all.
Here are some of the conclusions:
- At no age is there any clear benefit to women from removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy).
- "For women younger than 65 at the time of surgery, oophorectomy increases the risk of dying from coronary heart disease."
- Evidence from the Nurses' Health Study says that the risk of heart attack was doubled if the women in question were between 40 and 44 years old; and up 40% if the women were older than 50.
- After losing their ovaries, women have higher bad cholesterol levels, higher blood pressure and more hardening of the arteries.
- Women who were past menopause when they had an oophorectomy ended up with 54% more bone fractures due to osteporosis than women with intact ovaries.
- The fractures often were of the hip, and having a hip fracture between ages 60 and 64 meant dying early--a loss of 11 years of life!
- It also means that many of those women could never leave their homes again on their own. One study found that before breaking a hip, 28 percent of the women were housebound; after the fracture, 46 percent were housebound.
I certainly have no satisfactory answer to that.
But some, apparently, believe that the overriding benefit is to reduce a woman's chance of getting ovarian cancer. But this study notes that removal of the uterus alone lowers the risk of ovarian cancer by 40% below the level of women who retain their uterus.
So, let's see: since men have a risk of testicular cancer, should doctors be removing their testicles just in case? Or treating them with female hormones to reduce the risk of prostate cancer?
We women know that would never happen. Men prize their virility and do everything to keep it. Women prize their sexuality, too, but consent to hysterectomy and oopherectomy too often without realizing what they will be giving up. Thus the need for the HERS Foundation video and consent only after seeing it.
So, is it ignorance of the facts that keeps doctors castrating women? Or what? Theories--and certainly facts--welcome.