Nearly 500,000 women get hysterectomies each year in the United States. In fact, it is the second most common surgery among women in the U.S. according to the Office of Women’s Health.

What is a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is an operation to remove a woman’s uterus. Depending on the reason for your operation, the surgeon may perform what is referred to as a partial, total, or radical hysterectomy. A partial hysterectomy involves the removal of just the upper part of the uterus.

A total hysterectomy removes all of the uterus and the cervix. A radical hysterectomy is the removal of all of the uterus, cervix, and upper part of the vagina. This type of hysterectomy is usually only needed to treat cancers.

What are common reasons hysterectomies are performed?

  • Uterine fibroids: Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths in the wall of the uterus which can cause pain or heavy bleeding
  • Endometriosis: Endometriosis happens when the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus on the ovaries where it doesn’t belong. This also can cause severe pain and bleeding.
  • Adenomyosis: Adenomyosis happens when the tissue that lines the uterus grows inside the walls of the uterus where it does not belong, causing abnormally thick uterine walls.
  • Cancer: Cancers of the uterus, ovary, cervix, or endometrium can all be treated by a hysterectomy. Based on the type and the aggressiveness of the cancer, a hysterectomy may be your best option.

What are the alternatives?

Hysterectomies are often medically necessary, but there are other treatments that you may want to try first.

  • Watchful Waiting: Uterine fibroids tend to shrink after menopause. You and your doctor may decide to wait before making any further decisions.
  • Medicine: Over the counter pain medications can help with the pain and bleeding resulting from conditions such as endometriosis. Birth control may also help with irregular or heavy bleeding.
  • Minor Surgery: Depending on your symptoms and condition, surgeries that are less invasive and involve smaller or fewer cuts may be an option. Make sure to discuss all of your options with your doctor.