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Has Your Doctor Recommended a Hysterectomy? Here’s What You Need to Know

February 21, 2021
During the pandemic, many people put off seeking healthcare, especially preventive care, because they were concerned about the risk of catching COVID-19. Christine Helou, MD, a minimally invasive gynecological surgeon with GBMC Health Partners, talked with Mary Beth Marsden about why women shouldn’t put their healthcare needs last and answered questions about a common GYN procedure – hysterectomy.

Dr. Helou recommended receiving an annual pelvic and breast exam to spot any problems earliy when they may be more treatable and to protect your overall gynecological health. “Even though there are so many things competing for your time and attention, your health is very important and it’s not something to be put on the back burner,” she explained.

She also discussed the most commonly performed surgery in women, hysterectomy. About one in nine women will have a hysterectomy at some point in her life, and approximately 600,000 of these procedures are performed in the United States each year.

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the uterus and, in some cases, the cervix. Hysterectomies are performed to treat a variety of different gynecological issues, including vaginal bleeding that is not responding to other forms of treatment, pelvic pain from conditions like endometriosis, and cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancer. The decision of whether a hysterectomy is the most appropriate treatment takes into account the woman’s overall health, previous surgeries she’s had, and if she’s trying to preserve her fertility and have children in the future.

Dr. Helou explained that while hysterectomies used to be quite invasive and require long recovery periods, advances in medical technology now allow this surgery to be done either through the natural opening of the vagina or minimally invasively, with only very small incisions in the abdomen. The recovery time is usually three to four weeks compared to six to eight weeks with open surgery and patients are often able to return home the same day as their surgery.

“The key to protecting your gynecological health is to have a strong partnership with your gynecologist,” Dr. Helou said. Make sure you’re comfortable with your gynecologist and can have important conversations about any symptoms you’re experiencing, like debilitating pain during your menstrual cycle or excessive bleeding. And don’t be afraid to ask questions about your symptoms and potential treatments.”
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