Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Summarizing the Risks of Hysterectomy

When a women has surgery to remove her uterus, and way too often her healthy ovaries at the same time, she increases her risk of dying prematurely, diminishing her sex life, and suffering from a host of other health problems.

Here's a quick summary of the Risk Increase shown by some of the research, with sources:

Hysterectomy Alone
  • Incontinence: 60% greater risk by age 60 than an intact woman ("Vital Signs: Consequences; Hysterectomy and Risk of Incontinence." The New York Times, Aug. 22, 2000. By Eric Nagourney
  • Coronary Heart Disease: 3 times grater risk if hysterectomy done before menopause (American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Jan. 1981; 139 (1):58-61)
Oophorectomy (removal of ovaries)
  • Early Death: twice the risk if ovaries removed before age 45 and no estrogen replacement given ("Survival patterns after oophorectomy in premenopausal women: a population-based cohort study." Lancet Oncology Volume 7, Issue 10, 2006, pp.821-828; by W.A. Rocca, MD, and others.)
  • Dementia: 33% higher over all than women who keep their ovaries through menopause; 74% higher if her ovaries are removed on or before age 43 ("Increased risk of cognitive impairment or dementia in women who underwent oophorectomy before menopause." Neurology 2007; 69:1074-1083; by W.A. Rocca, MD, and others)
  • Heart Attack: double the risk if a woman loses her ovaries between the ages of 40 and 44; 40% higher if ovaries removed after age 50 ("Ovarian Conservation at the Time of Hysterectomy for Benign Disease." Obstetrics & Gynecology, Vol. 106, No.2, Aug. 2005
  • Bone fractures from osteoporosis: 54% more fractures when ovaries removed after menopause (same study, Ovarian Conservation, etc., cited above)
This is not a list you will find in any of the literature given out by gynecologists. Nor, when they try to talk women into letting them take out their ovaries while doing the hysterectomy, will they reveal that the average woman's risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 72 (or 1.39% over her lifetime). By comparison, the lifetime risk of breast cancer is 1 in 8 (or 12.15% over her lifetime).

Of course, some women have genetic and family risk factors for ovarian cancer that make their decision much more difficult. I feel for them. But for other women, a gynecologist who uses the fear of ovarian cancer to convince her to consent to ovary removal is nothing less than unethical. Such a doctor should do women the favor of finding some other line of work.

No comments: