Most hysterectomies are considered an optional health procedure; even so, there may be times your doctor recommends this operation. Before making a decision you should find out as much as you can about the procedure your doctor is suggesting, why it is needed and what you can expect after. The following are questions to ask your doctor so you can make an informed decision but please note that because every situation is different, all questions may not be relevant to you:
Which type of hysterectomy are you recommending? Why do you feel that procedure is best?
There are several different types of hysterectomy available, each uses different incisions and have different recuperative times. Talk to your doctor about what he is recommending and what is involved in the surgery.
I am close to menopause. Will my condition resolve itself or improve during menopause without having surgery?
Certain conditions, such as fibroids, improve on their own during and after menopause. If you are close to menopause age, talk about whether the risk of surgery is worth it or if waiting a little longer will improve your condition without surgery.
Will my condition improve without surgery?
Just as in the previous answer, talk to your doctor about the prognosis of your condition, with and without surgery.
What alternatives (both surgical and non-surgical) to hysterectomy are available?
You may want to have children in the future and certainly a hysterectomy will end any chance of having children. But even if you aren’t planning on having (any more) children, you should still know what non-surgery alternatives are available in order to weigh your options.
Which organs/structures do you plan to remove?
Besides the uterus, hysterectomies can include the removal of the cervix , ovaries or other organs. Before deciding find out exactly what the doctor is recommending and why he feels it is necessary to remove each organ.
Will the surgery be abdominal, vaginal or laparoscopic?
There are different incisions and ways to remove your uterus. Ask your doctor which procedure he is recommending and why he feels this type of surgery is best. You might want to ask about the pros and cons of each type so you can fully understand your choices.
How long will I need to recuperate?
This includes how long you are expected to be in the hospital after surgery as well as how long you will need to rest at home and when you will be able resume regular activities, such as taking baths, sex, driving after surgery. You should also ask about the emotional impact of hysterectomy. Talk about the different recovery times for the different types of surgeries.
Does the surgery cause menopause? If so, what symptoms should I expect and how soon will these symptoms appear?
Some hysterectomies cause you to enter menopause early, depending on the procedure and what organs are removed. Knowing this information can help you better manage symptoms of menopause if it does occur.
If you are leaving the cervix or ovaries in place, why?
If your doctor is suggesting removing only your uterus, ask him to explain why he feels other organs should remain in place. Ask about the pros and cons of removing or keeping these organs in place, for example, you may continue to have your period if your cervix remains in place.
Will surgery cure my condition?
Sometimes hysterectomy is used as a treatment rather than a cure. Ask your doctor if he thinks your symptoms will recur after surgery.
Do I still need to have regular pap smears after surgery?
Again, depending on what organs are removed, you may or may not need to continue to have pap smears. To make sure you are taking the best care of yourself, know in advance if you should continue to have these tests completed on a regular basis.
What are the chances that cancer has spread to other parts of my body, beyond my uterus/ovaries/cervix and I will need additional surgeries/treatments?
Although your doctor may indicate that he will not know the answer to this until he has completed the surgery, he may be able to give you an indication of what additional treatments and follow-up care may be needed.
As with any surgery, there are risks involved. Besides the previous questions, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of the surgery. Once you have all of the information, you can talk your decision over with your doctor and family members to come to the decision that is best for you.
“Facts About Hysterectomy,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Illinois Department of Public Health: Women’s Health
“Hysterectomy: Should I Also Have My Ovaries Removed?” Updated 2010, July 15, Reviewed by Sarah Marshall, M.D. HealthWise
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.