Do you ever miss work or cancel social engagements because of fibroid symptoms? When painful, exhausting, and inconvenient symptoms like heavy periods or severe cramps begin to impact your life, it may be time to consider fibroid treatment.
One potential treatment option is a hysterectomy, the complete surgical removal of the uterus. On the plus side, a hysterectomy is an effective solution for fibroids, and it’s the only treatment that guarantees your fibroids won’t ever return. However, having a hysterectomy procedure also has numerous drawbacks, the most concerning being that a hysterectomy always results in infertility. Because hysterectomies are considered a major surgery, women must go under general anesthesia, stay overnight at a hospital, and go through a lengthy recovery. Additionally, it can trigger early menopause and cause hormone imbalances.
Although many women believe that a hysterectomy is their only available option, this isn’t true. Before feeling rushed or pressured into any type of treatment, we recommend consulting with a fibroid specialist who will consider your individual needs and lifestyle choices.
We want our patients to feel confident about making decisions for their health, and to be informed about all available treatment options. Here’s what you should know about a hysterectomy procedure, available alternatives, and benefits of a non-surgical treatment called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE).
What Is a Hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that either partially or fully removes the uterus. Sometimes, surrounding organs such as the ovaries, cervix, or fallopian tubes are also removed. The surgery is commonly used to treat a range of reproductive health conditions. However, up to 300,000 hysterectomies each year are performed for fibroids, even though there are alternative non-surgical treatments available.
Reasons for Getting a Hysterectomy
There are many reasons why your doctor may recommend a hysterectomy. Some of these include:
- Uterine fibroids
- Uterine prolapse
- Cancers of the uterus, cervix, and ovaries.
It is critical to note that when non-cancerous conditions are present, trying other treatments first is usually recommended before resorting to a hysterectomy.
When it comes to treating uterine fibroids, we want you to understand that a hysterectomy is rarely the best option, particularly if you have concerns about your fertility or wish to avoid unnecessary surgery. Even if retaining your fertility is not your priority, recovering from hysterectomy procedures can be hard on your body and hormones. Additionally, the surrounding organs such as the bladder and intestines are often negatively impacted when the uterus is fully removed.
Instead of limiting your options to a hysterectomy procedure, ask your doctor or fibroid specialist the following:
- Are there any natural remedies available?
- Could medications alleviate painful cramps and heavy bleeding?
- Is another type of fibroid or uterus removal surgery an option?
- Am I a candidate for non-surgical fibroid treatment?
Treatment recommendations for fibroids are typically based on location, size, and the number of growths involved. That said, our experts believe that the vast majority of women can be offered effective alternatives to a hysterectomy that:
- Leave the uterus and other organs in place
- Preserve fertility
- Are minimally invasive
- Involve less risk than surgery
- Have a shorter recovery period
The most important aspect is that you feel comfortable and sure in your treatment choice. It is your right as a patient to get a second opinion so you can consider all of the options available to you.
If your doctor recommends a hysterectomy, be sure to ask which type they are referring to. You may be interested to learn that there are several possible options:
A total hysterectomy removes the entire uterus and cervix. This is the most common type of hysterectomy.
A partial hysterectomy removes only the upper portion of the uterus, leaving the cervix intact. This is also known as supracervical hysterectomy.
Hysterectomy with Oophorectomy
A hysterectomy with oophorectomy removes the uterus, one or both ovaries, and sometimes the fallopian tubes.
A radical hysterectomy removes the entire uterus, surrounding tissue, the cervix, and part of the vagina. It is usually only performed when cancer is present.
Hysterectomy Surgical Techniques
Once you understand which type of hysterectomy procedure your doctor recommends, you may wish to ask which type of surgical technique is involved. Techniques include:
During an abdominal hysterectomy, the uterus is removed through the abdomen. The surgeon makes an abdominal incision between six to eight inches that may be horizontal or vertical. This technique, also known as open hysterectomy, is most commonly used when the uterus is enlarged, large fibroids are present, or the ovaries and fallopian tubes are also being removed.
During a vaginal hysterectomy, the uterus is removed through the vaginal opening. It does not involve an external incision, and recovery tends to be less painful than other hysterectomy procedures.
During a laparoscopic hysterectomy, the uterus is removed in sections. The surgeon places a camera mounted on a flexible tube through an incision in the belly button and additional surgical instruments through small incisions in the lower abdomen. Then, the uterus is removed in pieces through the laparoscopic tube or the vagina.
During a robotic hysterectomy, the uterus is removed in sections in a manner similar to a laparoscopic hysterectomy. However, the surgeon uses more sophisticated tools that help them see better and use more natural hand movements.
All of the above hysterectomy procedures are performed under general anesthesia in a hospital setting. It’s important to not only consider the type of hysterectomy technique and surgery, but also how the recovery will be.
Recovery from hysterectomy usually involves a hospital stay of one to two days, though it can be longer if there are complications. Once you go home, you may require up to six to eight weeks recovery time before you can return to normal daily activities. Keep in mind that the type of hysterectomy performed can affect the length of your recovery.
You will not be allowed to drive while taking prescription pain medications or lift heavy objects during this time. You may also need to arrange for time off work or help with young children and basic household tasks.
Alternatives to Hysterectomy
Before scheduling hysterectomy surgery to treat your fibroids, be sure to educate yourself on your full range of available treatment options. Your alternatives to hysterectomy may include:
- Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE): UFE is a minimally invasive fibroid treatment that can shrink uterine fibroids by blocking blood flow from an artery. UFE is effective at alleviating symptoms caused by fibroids. It is performed as an outpatient procedure and involves a short recovery period of only seven to 10 days.
- Uterine Fibroid Ablation (UFA): UFA is another type of minimally invasive fibroid treatment that uses radiofrequency heat to destroy fibroids. The Acessa procedure is a type of fibroid ablation that uses a specialized handpiece.
- Myomectomy: Myomectomy is a surgical procedure that removes just the fibroids through cesarean section (c-section surgery). It is performed in a hospital, and there are three types available. You may not be a candidate if you have a lot of fibroids.
- Medications: Although they do not treat the fibroids themselves, medications can sometimes help women temporarily manage symptoms. For instance, you may benefit from pain medication to reduce cramps or hormonal birth control to control heavy menstrual bleeding.
Schedule a UFE Consultation with USA Fibroid Centers Today
At USA Fibroid Centers, we believe that a hysterectomy is rarely the best treatment option for fibroids. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of non-surgical , office-based fibroid treatment, we invite you to request a consultation with one of our leading fibroid experts today.
We specialize in performing Uterine Fibroid Embolization. UFE can shrink your fibroids and quickly alleviate your symptoms. It also involves less risk than a hysterectomy, leaves your uterus fully intact, preserves your fertility, and does not require a hospital stay or lengthy recovery.
Be free from suffering fibroid symptoms. We have dozens of fibroid center locations nationwide, and offer convenient telemedicine consultations. We look forward to helping you take back control of your life.