PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For many women, a hysterectomy is necessary at some point in their life.
However, can having it done too early cause more harm than good?
Michelle Stonemark and Jill Sodini have both had hysterectomies, each for different reasons.
Jill had polyps, while Michelle had complications from a procedure to stop her heavy bleeding.
Both kept their ovaries.
“I didn’t want to go into hormone replacement therapy. I didn’t want have to do those things and end up in early menopause,” Jill said.
“He basically told me, ‘I’m not going to take your ovaries, I’m going to take your fallopian tubes, but not your ovaries.’ He said it’s more of a health benefit at my age,” Michelle said.
Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman’s uterus.
Every year 600,000 hysterectomies are done in the United States, and by age 60, one in three women will have had this procedure.
The surgeon removes the uterus and can also take the cervix, or opening of the womb, the fallopian tubes, and the ovaries. But younger women often choose to leave the ovaries in for the hormones they produce.
“The ovaries are helping to protect a woman’s heart health and her bone health even into her 50s and early 60s,” St. Clair Hospital OB/GYN Dr. Tera Conway said.
There has been little research on the long-term effect of a hysterectomy. Now, a study looked at the medical records of nearly 400 women who had the operation from 1965 to 2002. These women kept their ovaries. They were compared to similar women who did not have the procedure.
The researchers found certain patterns, particularly among young women.
“In women under the age of 50, they were at an increased risk for a number of things, including high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Conway said. “Women under 35 were at a much greater risk of coronary artery disease, arrhythmias and congestive heart failure
If they aren’t removed during a hysterectomy, the ovaries’ main blood supply and protective hormonal function remain.
The uterus itself doesn’t produce any hormones.
It’s possible the ovaries get some extra blood supply from vessels along the uterus, and these are removed during the surgery.
“Women, particularly under the age of 50, if there is an alternative for hysterectomy that they haven’t tried yet, definitely something worth looking into,” Dr. Conway said.
In the era of the medical records reviewed in the study, there were not many treatment options other than surgery. Now, there are quite a few.
If those don’t work, a hysterectomy may still be in a woman’s best interest if you wait as long as possible.
“It took quite a few years until I got to the point of the hysterectomy,” Jill said. “At that point, I was ready to do it.”
“I’m not a person who worries about what’s going to happen. I can only do what’s best for me and my family today. If the best thing that I can do to keep myself out of pain and take care of my kids every day is have a hysterectomy, then I’m not too concerned about that,” Michelle said.