The most extensive form of hysterectomy, a radial hysterectomy includes the removal of the uterus, cervix and top of the vagina. Depending on the extent of the cancer, the surgeon may also decide to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes. If the lymph nodes are biopsied and show signs of cancer, they too will be removed. Because so much tissue is removed, including the possibly of having to remove tissue in the pelvic cavity that surrounds the cervix, a longer hospital stay and longer recovery period are required.
Women with early stages of cervix cancer are the likeliest candidates for a radical hysterectomy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What are the risks factors of hysterectomy surgery?
A: Hysterectomies are a fairly common procedure, as such surgeons are highly skilled in the procedure. Complications may include blood loss, infection and a negative reaction to anesthesia. These are common with all forms of surgery. During the surgery, there is also a risk that other organs may be affected, because the pelvic region is a very tight operating environment. As such, patients may have to have follow-up surgery to correct any damage done to other organs.
Q. What do I need to do to prepare for a hysterectomy?
A: Being in good physical and mental shape will help you rebound more quickly from surgery. Doing some aerobics and cutting down or quitting smoking can improve your recovery. Getting rid of extra weight will reduce the chance you’ll have an adverse reaction to anesthesia and help you get through surgery better. Iron supplements can increase the health of your blood. Be sure to get plenty of rest in the days leading up to the operation so you won’t suffer from fatigue during and after surgery.
Q. Should I stop taking my prescriptions and over-the-counter medications?
A: You’ll want to discuss this with your doctor. Some anti-inflammatories and other drugs used for arthritis and headaches can interfere with the proper clotting of your blood. You definitely shouldn’t be taking MAO inhibitors if you are about to undergo a hysterectomy.
Q. Can I look forward to a full recovery?
A: Yes. It may take up to six weeks to fully recovery. For patients who have an abdominal hysterectomy, you have to wait for the stitches to heal. Even a vaginal hysterectomy may require time to heal. Of course, recovery timeframes vary by the type of procedure you have and your general health. Don’t rush recovery since it may cause complications. When you return home immediately after surgery, you’ll want to avoid strenuous activities, especially those that require lifting. Take it slowly on the stairs and don’t plan on going for a drive for a week or two. Again, your doctor will be the best one to determine what you should and shouldn’t be doing after a hysterectomy.
Q. When can I return to work?
A: You should plan six weeks. Even if you’re not in pain after surgery, you will still be tired and find you need to take a rest in the afternoon. No matter which surgery you have – an abdominal hysterectomy, vaginal hysterectomy or a laparoscopic hysterectomy – you’ll want to avoid any heavy lifting for at least a month and a half.
Q. Are there any symptoms I should be aware of after a hysterectomy?
A: Monitor any bleeding you may have. Naturally there should be some staining or discharge as stitches dissolve, but you’ll want to alert your doctor of any bleeding that approaches the level of a normal menstrual period. If your temperature goes above 100 degrees Fahrenheit you want to tell your doctor, too. It could be a sign of infection.
If you have had your ovaries removed during surgery, you may find that you are being to experience symptoms of menopause. If you start having hot flashes, sleep problems or other menopausal symptoms, call your doctor to see if you need to change your estrogen levels.
Q. Will I go through menopause?
A: If your uterus or cervix are removed, no. However, if you have had your ovaries removed you may experience menopausal symptoms. These can be more severe than if you went through menopause naturally, so you may need to undergo estrogen replacement therapy following surgery.
Q. Will a hysterectomy have any affect on my emotions?
A: That’s hard to say. Every woman is different. If you’ve had your ovaries removed as well as your uterus, you could experience very strong emotions. Some women will also have some psychological and emotional adjustments, since a hysterectomy makes it impossible to have children biologically. Others will have no problems at all and will recover quickly to lead a normal life.
Q. Will a hysterectomy affect my sex life?
A: It can. Some women experience temporary pain during intercourse, especially the first few times after the operation. Obviously, your orgasms can be affected, since you don’t have the uterine contractions. On the flip side, if you’ve had endometriosis or fibroids, intercourse can be more enjoyable because this tissue is no longer being jabbed, causing pain. Learn more about sex after a hysterectomy.
Q. Does a hysterectomy affect PMS?
A: Many women report that symptoms of PMB disappear after a hysterectomy, even if the ovaries aren’t removed. This is scientifically questionable, since the ovaries influence PMS symptoms, not the uterus. Regardless, you may enjoy less intense or no PMS symptoms following a hysterectomy, even if the ovaries remain.
Q. What are the side effects of a hysterectomy?
A: Side effects depend on a lot of factors, including your age, whether or not you are still in your childbearing years, the type of hysterectomy you have and your overall health.
If your ovaries aren’t removed, you may still experience menopause-like changes, including hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness or other symptoms. A small percentage of women may also experience unexpected weight gain, constipation, fatigue and/or pelvic pain.
Other possible side effects of the surgery itself may include:
- Negative reaction to anesthesia
- Excessive bleeding
- Incidental damage to nearby organs