That seems like a pretty steep number of women going through the surgery, especially since the experts seem to suggest that hysterectomies should be performed only when a life-threatening situation is at hand. Such situations include invasive cancers of the organs of the female reproductive system, unmanageable infection or bleeding and serious complications resulting from childbirth.
Statistics show that 1 in 3 women will have undergone the procedure by their 60th birthday (as approximately one third of all women up to their 60th birthday have had some sort of pelvic health issue). However, according to a new study reported by Medical News Today on Jan. 11, 1 in 5 women may be undergoing the procedure needlessly. This is significant, especially in lieu of the statistic that nearly 40 percent of women who have reproductive organ maladies are not offered treatments other than hysterectomies when they go to the doctor with their complaints.
A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus which may also result in the removal of the cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes and other features of the female reproductive system. According to WebMD, hysterectomies are performed for myriad reasons and are done as a last resort in noncancerous cases when other approaches have proven to be unsuccessful. Causes leading up to them can include painful uterine fibroids, uterine prolapse, uterine cancer, endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain.
Though hysterectomy rates are falling in the U.S., hundreds of thousands of women still undergo the procedure. The Medical News Today (MNT) notes that the guidelines set forth by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists urge health care officials to suggest other modes of non-surgical treatments such as myomectomy or uterine artery embolization (in the case of fibroids) and endometrial ablation, hormonal therapies or a prescription of NSAIDs (in the case of heavy or unmanageable menstrual bleeding).
In the study mentioned above (which was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology), Doctors and staff set out to analyze data concerning use of alternative treatments before hysterectomies were even considered for patients who were not facing life-threatening issues. It was found that among the 3,397 women from 52 hospitals in the state of Michigan who had gone through the surgical procedure for maladies that were not life-threatening, 37.7 percent had no documents in their medical records showing that they had undergone alternative therapies, nor had those alternative therapies been suggested or prescribed. “What is more,” reported MNT, “the pathological findings following surgery among 18.3% women - almost 1 in 5 - did not support the need for a hysterectomy. Further, “Less than 30% of women received medical therapy prior to a hysterectomy, according to the study, and 24% underwent minor surgical procedures beforehand.” More statistics point to the fact that alternatives to hysterectomies are not suggested or employed enough.
*originally published at the now defunct Examiner.com