A hysterectomy is an operation to remove a woman’s uterus. Depending on the severity of the precipitating condition, a hysterectomy is either “total” (removal of uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries) or “partial” (removal of only the uterine body). While hysterectomies are considered a major surgery, they are very common in the United States; a whopping one in three women in the United States has had one by age 60. Hysterectomies are most commonly performed for the following conditions:
Cancer of the uterus, cervix or ovaries;
As an elective preventative measure for women with a strong family history of reproductive cancers;
Severe and intractable endometriosis;
Placenta praevia (a placenta that has either formed over or inside the birth canal) or placenta accreta (a placenta that has grown into and through the wall of the uterus to attach itself to other organs), as well as a last resort in case of excessive postpartum bleeding: and
For transsexual men (as a component of their gender transition).
The ovaries produce the majority of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s body. Therefore younger women necessarily experience premature menopause as a side effect of a total hysterectomy, which can have major physical, emotional and psychological side effects. Many women have turned to estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) to relieve their side effects; however, the long-term safety of hormone replacement therapy has recently been called into question. Some studies have shown an increased risk of breast cancer in women who take ERT for an extended period of time.
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