About 20 million American women have had a hysterectomy. However, not every hysterectomy is the same. Some include removal of ovaries and/or the cervix, while others remove just the uterus. As you explore hormone therapy for menopause, it's important to know what kind of hysterectomy you've had—which organs were removed and which remain—because these details are necessary for you to get appropriate treatment.
Here are the main types of hysterectomies and pelvic procedures common to women in midlife along with their technical, surgical name, which is the one your medical chart should reflect:
This may seem complicated, but knowing which organs were removed, which remain, and which need ongoing surveillance or screening is an important way to advocate for your own health. If you don’t know or you're not sure, call the office of the doctor who performed your procedure and get that information.
Here's just one example of why an accurate surgical history is important: If your cervix has not been removed as part of your hysterectomy, you’ll need to continue to have occasional pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. Similarly, if you still have your fallopian tubes and/or ovaries, you’ll need to continue having pelvic exams to screen for ovarian cysts, ovarian cancer, or fallopian tube problems.
If you've had your uterus removed, only estrogen is needed and not progesterone. Studies to date reveal that estrogen, taken alone, has the lowest risks and may actually have a lower risk for breast cancer than post-menopausal women who don’t take any hormones at all.
Understanding your body and being educated about past surgeries is key to maintaining your health. Whether you are taking menopausal hormone therapy or not, maintaining an accurate record of surgeries and procedures will help you and your doctor ensure you get the most appropriate treatment.