“I have always wanted a hysterectomy,” Amber Ruffin of the Amber Ruffin Show admits in a recent Essence article detailing her longtime battle with uterine fibroids.
This was so sad to read, considering that millions of women continue to suffer in silence with heavy, painful menstrual cycles and urinary frequency related to their uterine fibroids, and, when finally diagnosed with fibroids, these women are too often told by their doctors that hysterectomy surgery is the only option for treatment.
Why Do Women Get Hysterectomy?
It speaks to the level of suffering that these women endure and that anyone would look forward to a major operation (essentially an amputation) to rid themselves of the dreaded menstrual cycle that they fear on a monthly basis. “While we’ve been programmed to think that heavy periods and uncontrollable bleeding that disrupt our daily lives is normal, it’s not and you don’t have to suffer in silence,” said Amber Ruffin. This is absolutely true, but that does not mean you need to undergo surgery to find relief.
What Happens When A Woman Has A Hysterectomy
What is most concerning is that numerous studies have shown that these doctors fail to educate their patients about safer, less invasive treatment options like uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). No one should be faced with the impossible option of continuing their suffering or undergoing a hysterectomy which can irrevocably alter the quality of life by increasing the risk for psychological distress (like male castration) or causing sexual dysfunction, urinary leakage, bone loss, and even cardiovascular events like a heart attack or stroke.
So on one hand, I am thankful that Amber Ruffin and others like her are using their platform trying to get the word out about uterine fibroids which disproportionately affect women of color.
However, on the other hand, we need women (including Amber Ruffin) to know that there are outstanding nonsurgical treatment options like UFE that will effectively treat all of their symptoms, while also allowing them to completely avoid the risks and long recovery of surgery, and be able to keep their uterus!
Women are entitled to know all of their treatment options, not just the surgical ones. They should be able to control their own narrative, be able to choose from quality options, and no longer fear dealing with their condition.
Hysterectomized Women: Who Are They?
Racial inequities have long existed in medicine, and the surgical treatment of uterine fibroids is a prime example. Many surgeons today have retained the “Mississippi Appendectomy” approach to uterine fibroid care. They believe that the uterus is worthless after childbearing; particularly if you are a woman of color. If you look racially at what is the prime indication for hysterectomy you find that for white women it is uterine cancer which is appropriate, while for black women it is benign uterine fibroids.
The average age for hysterectomy is 39 years and there are many women less than 30 years of age that have already lost their uterus. Why are we amputating and sterilizing hundreds of thousands of young black women for the benign disease? They don’t have any reasons for hysterectomy.
Although fibroids are benign tumors, pervasive atrocities of medical bias and racism have consistently resulted in negative maternal health outcomes for Black women who experience them, including late detections of diagnoses, increased rates of surgery-related mortality, and increased rates of hysterectomies. Black women deserve access to high-quality and equitable health care for all maternal health needs, including all treatment options for fibroids.
Black women tend to get fibroids earlier in life, they have greater amounts of fibroids, as well as larger fibroids. Black women are more likely to end up with a hysterectomy than any other racial group, for example, they are three times more likely to have a hysterectomy than Caucasian women of the same age. And let’s not forget, undergoing a hysterectomy has consequences for women beyond obvious surgical risks, including, intraoperative bleeding requiring transfusion, injuring adjacent organs (bladder, ureter, bowel), infection, wound issues, and blood clots, with or without having previously had children.
Reasons for Hysterectomy: Can You Get A Hysterectomy By Choice?
The uterus is the epicenter of what makes a woman biologically, and there are psychological implications of a woman having her uterus removed. Worst of all, there is no way to predict who will suffer most severely, post-hysterectomy.
This is why, despite Amber Ruffin’s desire not to have children, I could not help but wish her statement was an April Fools’ joke:
“I have always wanted a hysterectomy… I’ve known since time began that I did not want children. So, every period, I spent four days trying to figure out a way to make it my last period. In fact, I asked my gynecologist if I could have a hysterectomy and she said, ‘No! You can’t just have one for no reason!’ So, when she told me about my fibroids, I was like, “Can I have one now?” and she said yes! It was probably the only time she got to tell someone that as good news.”
Ruffin nor her doctor ever mention, that women going into menopause early, extensive recovery time, sexual side effects, mental health issues (like a man being castrated), significant bone loss, and urinary leaking requiring diapers as other impacts of a hysterectomy.
UFE as a Non-Surgical Alternative to Hysterectomy for Fibroids
Likely, Ms. Ruffin was never given another option, and yet she was entitled to hear them from her gynecologist. There is a highly effective non-surgical option called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). It is safe, well-tolerated, and performed as an outpatient procedure with patients going home the same day of the procedure with just a Band-Aid (and their uterus)! Fibroids can be debilitating, but UFE is a safe and convenient option for treatment. UFE is a game changer and transforms women’s lives every day.
Benefits of the UFE Procedure
- No hospital stay;
- Safer than surgery;
- Less Invasive than surgery;
- Shorter recovery than surgery;
- Less expensive than surgery;
- No blood loss;
- No general anesthesia;
- Covered by all insurance carriers;
- Can have children after UFE;
- Keeping your Uterus!
For more information about uterine fibroids and UFE, please go to ATLii.com.