30 October 2011

Research, research, research

As I mentioned before, my doctor agreed to performing a hysterectomy because I have fibroids. There really isn't any other successful treatment for fibroids except to control the symptoms. For instance, pills can be given to help with the heavy flow of the period (these pills have side effects, of course) or birth control pills can be used to reduce the severity of the period. Surgery can be performed to get rid of only the fibroids but then they just grow back. Fibroids can be shrunken using drugs, but they grow as soon as the drugs are discontinued. 

While considering the hysterectomy I decided I would also get my estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels checked in anticipation of hormone replacement surgery in case my ovaries are removed as well. What better time to check the levels of these hormones than when they are still being naturally produced in my body. My sister pointed out that hormone replacement therapy (hrt) can cause breast cancer and I'd be at a higher risk of cancer because she has hormone positive breast cancer. So research was needed here.

When I talked to my doctor, she said the risks of hysterectomy include death, damage to my bladder because of the c-section scar, damage to surrounding organs and blood clots. I was told the recovery time is about 6-8 weeks. Armed with this info I went to my boss and let him know I'd be off work and started the process of receiving short term disability for the duration. One coworker who had a hysterectomy recently said she took three months off work and felt like an 80 year old when she returned. I suspect I'd have to extend my recovery time as I have a huge amount of heavy lifting in my job and my coworker didn't. 

Anyway. I finally sat in front of the computer to do some research on hrt and breast cancer links so I could make a more informed decision when I encountered the HERS Foundation website. This website information frightened me enough to dig a little deeper on some of the other side effects to a hysterectomy.

This site reported that the uterus is held in place by ligaments connected to the inside of the pelvis (I had no idea) and these ligaments are severed during surgery, along with nerve bundles that connect to the clitoris, labia, vagina and nipples. Hmmmm. Also reported was the surgical shortening of the vagina when the cervix is removed with the uterus. Hmmmmmm. Now I'm a bit suspicious that this is the best course of action for me. I really like my nerve bundles just the way they are. Severing them might result in me not having the quality of life I would like.

So right now I'm considering going back on birth control pills to lessen the effects of the fibroids. After all, I didn't even know I had them until I went off the Pill and my periods became increasingly heavy and painful. I was on one of the highest doses of the Pill for over 20 years with short breaks to get pregnant with my two boys. I stopped taking the Pill only because I get migraines with my period and according to the doctor this kind of migraine increases my risk of strokes. Actually, I was told the migraines were a result of having a sudden drop in estrogen which is caused by the Pill. So if I took a Pill that didn't have a sudden drop in estrogen (three weeks on, one week off the Pill), like a continuous Pill (three months on, one week off, or 365 days on), you'd think that would alleviate the migraines, right? 

Maybe I'll just set up another appointment with the doctor to get better information on all this. For all I know, I'm massively overthinking the whole damn thing.


Sheri Weinberg said...

I had a total hysterectomy (ovaries too) about 10 years ago, and I've never had any residual problems from it. It's actually one of the best decisions I've made.

The Hyperlexian Aspie said...

i am very happy to read that you're doing research and being cautious. i trust that you will make the right decision for yourself!


Anonymous said...

I had a hysterectomy when I was 28yrs old. The docs left one ovary so I didn't need HRT - no reason for them to take the ovaries if the problem is only the uterus. Until I read your blog I hadn't known that nerve bundles had been cut but that explains a lot for me. I'm with you, keeping those nerves intact is important! Good luck. Aunt Margaret