A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a woman’s uterus, also called the womb. Typically, the whole uterus is removed. In some cases, the surgeon may also remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries. After a hysterectomy, a woman is no longer able to menstruate or to become pregnant.
WHY GET A HYSTERECTOMY?
A woman who suffers from heavy or unusual menstrual periods, uterine fibroids, uterine prolapse, endometriosis, adenomyosis, or ovarian cancer may need a hysterectomy. A woman who is scheduled for a hysterectomy should talk to a doctor about the available options, particularly if the woman is having both ovaries removed. Having both ovaries removed will cause symptoms of menopause regardless of the woman’s age.
A radical hysterectomy is one in which the uterus, fallopian tubes and both ovaries are removed. Because, in this case, a hysterectomy will cause symptoms of menopause, many women will receive hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after the procedure. HRT can help to alleviate the symptoms of menopause.
TREATING MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS
In the past, there have been some concerns that hormone therapy may increase the risk of diseases such as heart disease, blood clots, breast cancer, and stroke. There are a number of newer therapies, with reduced risks which may be effective in short-term, low doses. The main one is known as estrogen-alone hormone replacement therapy.
Estrogen-alone hormone therapy has been shown not to increase the risk of breast cancer. However, age can be an important factor on the other risks HRT might pose. Trials suggest that HRT may increase the risk of dementia in older women. However, for women who are at high risk of osteoporosis, HRT can reduce the risk.
Women with a history of blood clots or breast cancer should not take hormone replacement therapy. Instead, these individuals may want to talk to a physicians about possible lifestyle changes or other alternatives.
ALTERNATIVES TO HORMONE THERAPY
Some women choose to use alternatives to hormone replacement therapy to alleviate the symptoms of menopause after a hysterectomy. One alternative is to increase the fiber, protein, iron and calcium levels in the diet simply by adding peas, beans, and legumes. Some nutritional experts believe that the phytoestrogens in these foods can eliminate symptoms such as hot flashes as well as prevent osteoporosis and heart disease. Taking vitamin E has been shown not only to reduce hot flashes but also to prevent vaginal dryness and to reduce the risk of heart attack. Black cohosh is an herb used widely by Native Americans. This herb may help to restore hormonal balance.
LIFE AFTER HYSTERECTOMY
Women who have had or are about to have a hysterectomy should discuss the benefits of hormone replacement therapy with a doctor. While HRT is not right for all women, many women benefit from this treatment. Women can also discuss natural alternatives with a physician that can be used alone or in conjunction with HRT.