Ottawa woman champions hysterectomy alternatives

An Ottawa woman is encouraging others to seek out alternatives to hysterectomies, a surgical procedure she says is often unnecessary.
Author says women should consider alternatives before undergoing invasive surgery. 2:25

An Ottawa woman is encouraging others to seek out alternatives to hysterectomies, a surgical procedure she says is often unnecessary.

Holly Bridges said after being diagnosed in 2007 with two benign tumors on her uterus, her doctor recommended a hysterectomy — the surgical removal of the uterus.

She said the monthly bleeding was relentless.

"You can imagine when you lose that amount of can be life threatening," said Bridges, a former CBC journalist living in Ottawa. 
Holly Bridges said she believes more doctors should be encouraging alternatives to hysterectomies. (CBC)

She was scheduled to undergo the procedure, but she was forced to put her surgery on hold after her sister died in a car crash.

That's when she said she found a less invasive solution.

"I went into overdrive ... I thought there has to be a better way than this," said Bridges.

Surgeries a drain on healthcare system

Dr. Sony Singh, the director of minimally invasive gynecology at the Ottawa Hospital, cut out Bridges’ tumours using microscopic instruments in 2008.

Singh said the procedure is quick and painless, but said these alternatives are still rare in the medical world, as the equipment is expensive and training hard to find.

He said health providers should pursue alternatives, however, as the cost of surgeries is a drain on the healthcare system.

"It's a significant problem," said Singh. "With 50,000 being done across the country that's a significant cost to our healthcare system, to our hospital system." 
Dr. Sony Singh said women should be given options, both surgical and non-surgical, for dealing with their health issues. CBC

About 47,000 women had a hysterectomy in 2008-09, the most recent year where data was available. After adjusting for the aging of the population, the national hysterectomy rate in 2008-2009 was 338 per 100,000 women, down from 484 per 100,000 in 1997.

Hysterectomies sometimes necessary

Singh said hysterectomies are in some cases necessary, such as in cases of cancer or where less invasive options have failed. But he said when possible, the choice of what procedure to undergo should be with the patient.

"Women deserve options, whether it be an option to do something less invasive like a medication to treat their symptoms versus going ahead and moving to a surgical approach," said Singh.

Bridges has since chronicled her experience in a book she has written called UNHysterectomy that explores the alternatives available.

Bridges said she is sharing her experience in the hopes other women seek out other options.

"Even though I was past having children - I have two children - I'm attached to my uterus, I'm sentimental, that's where I carried my children," said Bridges.

"If we have a lump on her arm do we cut the whole arm off? If we have the technology to solve the problem less invasively while preserving our body parts, why not?"