Women: When it’s your body, know your options

As women, and especially women who have had kids, many of us may find ourselves in a position where our OBGYN recommends a hysterectomy to solve a variety of issues around heavy periods. The frightening prospect of surgery leaves us relying on our doctors to advise the best course of action. In such a situation, however, we need to know as much information as possible to ensure we sign up for the best treatment option, and it may not be the first one your doctor recommends.

Other pelvic health conditions [fibroids, stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse] are so common that one-third of women will experience one or more of these conditions in their lifetime due to a variety of factors – most commonly pregnancy and childbirth.

But, the good news is there are treatment options for these conditions that do not require the traditional surgery, which frequently comes with a higher risk of complications and a longer healing process. Minimally invasive procedures, done quickly and relatively easily, usually require much less time to heal and there’s a lot less pain, too. Yet many of us do not even know they exist, as we rely on information from our doctors who may suggest the outdated approaches because they lack the skill to perform the newer, less invasive ones or even because new endoscopic procedures bring less income to the doctor or hospital.

The US News & World reported that, out of the one in four women who receive hysterectomies, approximately 85% are still treated with traditional open abdominal surgical methods, despite the perfection of a decades old laparoscopic procedure that leaves the ovaries and cervix in place.

Women need to take control of their health care decisions so they can make informed choices.  If a doctor proves unwilling or unable to perform minimally invasive procedures, they should feel empowered to seek out a second opinion from a gynecologist who offers less invasive options.

For the last 36 years, the AAGL has provided a forum for physicians, residents, O.R. personnel and other professionals in women’s healthcare to exchange ideas and to share the latest technology, research and findings in minimally invasive gynecology.

When established in 1971, the AAGL was the first organization of its kind dedicated to gynecologic endoscopic surgery. More than three decades later, we remain the largest professional society in minimally invasive gynecology; recognized worldwide for leading the field through education, communication and research.

Less invasive approaches are now available for many gynecologic procedures that once required major surgery. The advantages of minimally invasive procedures include reduced risk of infection, minimized scarring, less blood loss, decreased post-operative pain, and generally quicker recovery time. Thanks to such improvements, minimally invasive gynecology is enjoying an ever-growing following of surgeons and patients alike. Exciting new advances in minimally invasive diagnosis and treatment continue to expand the bounds of gynecologic care.

As a diagnostic tool, gynecologic endoscopy – the use of a miniaturized telescopic device to see inside the abdomen and female organs — is unparalleled in its ability to permit the physician visual examination of internal organs and early detection of gynecologic disorders. Many of these can be corrected using minimally invasive techniques, often at once.

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