Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An "Essential" Guide to Hysterectomy That Isn't

The title, Women's Hysterectomy Stories:  The Essential Guide," gave me great expectations. Here, available on line for $17, was an e-book that I thought might help to enlighten women about the perils to their long-term health and sexuality from hysterectomies.

So, I sprung for the $17. And was sorry that I did.

This book, written by Ruth Steeves and promoted on her website, Hysterectomyresources.com, is only for you if you've already made up your mind that you really need a hysterectomy. It will advise you about making arrangements in advance of your surgery for child care, and meals, and what to expect in the hospital, and once you get home.

But just like HysterSisters, which is promoting the daVinci robotic system for the surgery, this book and Steeves' website see the epidemic of hysterectomies through rose-colored glasses. The goal is to eliminate your anxiety about having a hysterectomy.  The furthest they go in bucking the medical establishment is to encourage women to get a second opinion.

HysterSisters has actually launched a "Give Me a Second" campaign whose purpose is "to strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, to improve women's quality of care through awareness of minimally invasive surgical procedures (italics mine) and to increase confidence in their healthcare decisions."

Once again, it's all about finding a doctor who will use laparoscopy or robots for a less traumatic hysterectomy. Not to avoid one altogether and survive with your organs intact.

The problem with the generic advice to get a second opinion is that too many gynecologists disregard all the evidence about the serious after-effects of hysterectomy and removal of the ovaries and won't volunteer any information about them. These are not side-effects--like an infection due to the surgery--but long-term adverse impacts on health and sexual pleasure.

Without a uterus, a woman can not experience what some refer to as a full-body orgasm in which the uterus pulses rthymically. That is not an opinion. It's an incontrovertible fact, but the gynecologist who will warn you about that is a rare individual. You also won't hear about your increased risk of future bladder and back problems, or about your much higher risk of heart attack if your ovaries are removed. There's no controversy at all about these after-effects of hysterectomy. The evidence has been reported in medical journal articles repeatedly over the last several decades.

Yet, to justify the supposed joy of hysterectomy, The Essential Guide  tells one anonymous woman's tale of painful periods ever since she had her first, and her gloriously wonderful life after hysterectomy.

Other than that one, there are only three other stories included as MP3 downloads or PDFs. One of the women had uterine cancer (an absolutely valid and unavoidable reason for a hysterectomy); another had to be on blood thinners for another condition and this had serious effects on her periods (how common is that one? and who knows what alternatives she had?); and the third said she had "passed out" every time she got her period. Again, thankfully, not a common experience. All end up as testimonials for Steeves' book.

That said, yes indeed, women should get second opinions. And third and fourth, if need be, until they find a doctor whose practice is focused on avoiding hysterectomies, not doing them. Some medical centers now have specific hysterectomy alternatives centers. Search for them. But first, arm yourself for these discussions by learning about the anatomy of our reproductive organs and the essential role they play in our health and pleasure for as long as we are alive.

To get that information, I once again recommend the HERS Foundation website where you can watch a plain vanilla explanation, with diagrams but not any sort of bloody video, of the functions of your uterus and organs. You'll be grateful for investing 10 minutes of your time to save your future health and pleasure.



Anonymous said...

Where does the money backing Hystersisters come from?

Anonymous said...

I have answered my own question as I see ACOG recommends Hystersisters on their web site. There should be disclosure of the relationship.

Anonymous said...

In addition to the HERS website, please review their publication "The H Word"

TQ said...

If AGOG recommends either of these sites, then they contain the view doctors want their patients to have concerning this surgery. It also means all the reports that claim that the problem between doctors and patients is some kind of miscommunication. Doctors are well versed (and practiced) in the kind of communication they want to impart to their patients.

Something to think about.

Anonymous said...

You are right about the hystersisters site. They are not impartial but an advertisement for robotic surgery. I have been banned from the site -twice. For PMing others with an aternative to having their hysterectomy. So they are so paranoid that they read our PMS.
I'd like to know who is behind the site and how they sleep at night leading women on like that. They are clever enough to know that women turn to the internet for information so they contructed their own heavily censored forum that appears to give all the information but is really just a promotional tool for their own industry. Doctors are not going to give up this lucrative business easily. I can't think of any other specialty that so actively tries to keep the truth hidden from patients.