The More You Know: What's A Hysterectomy?

Since having had a hysterectomy, I've realized that 1) I was sort of fuzzy on the details of the surgery before I had mine, and 2) most people are in the same boat. Because the surgery involves lady bits, it's usually discussed in hushed tones by our mothers while they are in the middle of a hot flash. There's not always a robust dialogue surrounding hysterectomy, at least in my world, and of course I think there should be. So, this post is a simple introduction to hysterectomies and related surgeries. Which organs come out? Which stay in? What does it all mean?

 

First up, what's our starting point? (Note: If you are a person who is offended by my referring to our reproductive organs as "Your Junk," you can just skip the rest of the post.) Do we all remember 6th grade health class? That might be the last time someone asked you to diagram and discuss your reproductive organs. Let's review. From the bottom up: vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries. And, just like any other organs in our body, these ones can get sick and need to be removed.

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The second thing you need to know, is that a hysterectomy only refers to the uterus. ONLY THE UTERUS! Many women have a Supracervical Hysterectomy, which means that the uterus goes, and the cervix stays. Sometimes, only part of the uterus is removed, depending on the reason for the hysterectomy. Typically, the whole thing is removed. 

But, what if the cervix goes, too?

Then, you've had a Total Hysterectomy! Good-bye uterus and cervix. This is the type of hysterectomy that I had. 

Often, when women are diagnosed with a gynecological cancer, they'll undergo a Radical Hysterectomy. This involves the removal of the uterus, adjacent tissues, cervix, and perhaps part of the vagina. The raddest, baddest, cancer-beating bitches I know have had Radical Hysterectomies. 

So, we've still got tubes and ovaries to deal with. These may be removed in addition to a hysterectomy, or they may be left in place. Or they may be removed independently, not as part of a hysterectomy surgery. Many women with endometriosis who have a hysterectomy have tubes and ovaries removed, in some combination. 

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The removal of one or both ovaries is referred to as an OOPHorectomy. I really like this word because it includes the sound "oof," which is the sound of the air leaving my body as I learn that yet another friend has had to have her organs removed because of some crappy-ass disease. 

Finally, the tubes. The tubes can be removed independently, as is often the case with a tubal ectopic pregnancy, or in combination with the ovaries, as is often the case with a hysterectomy and oophorectomy. When all of the tubes and ovaries are removed it's called a Bilateral Salpingo-Oophorectomy. Fancy, right? 

So, what does my hysterectomy look like? Here's a picture:

I had a total hysterectomy with a partial oophorectomy and both tubes removed. Which means, I have my vagina and one ovary floating around in there. 

What does your hysterectomy/oophorectomy/tube removal look like? I want to see! Draw your surgery and send me a pic (@jenrutner on Twitter is easiest, but email works, too.) I will share drawings of Your Junk on my blog. Because I actually believe that people need to see this. Infertility is complex. Endometriosis is complex. Surgery is complex. Healing is complex. Let's help make it all a little bit clearer by speaking out about the reality of our bodies. 

If you want to learn more about hysterectomies and the women who have them, or if you are going to have one yourself, I highly recommend the website hystersisters.com. It's where the cool girls hang out to talk about surgery and their lives post-hyst.