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Ask an Ob/Gyn: Do You Need to See an Ob/Gyn If You've Had a Hysterectomy?

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Dr. Barbara Hays is a board-certified Ob/Gyn in Sacramento, Calif. In our "Ask an Ob/Gyn" series, Dr. Hays answers questions readers have posted on the Healthgrades Facebook page.

Q: I had a hysterectomy, and my uterus was removed. Do I still need to visit my Ob/Gyn every year?

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A: Many women who have had a hysterectomy ask this question. Ob/Gyns address a wide variety of issues at regular visits, including:breast health and screening with referral for mammogram as indicated; menstrual cycles, bleeding problems or pain with periods; birth control or planning for conception; screening for infections, including sexually transmitted, vaginal, vulvar, or urinary; bladder problems such as incontinence or recurrent infections; vaginal prolapse symptoms; bowel function and hemorrhoid issues; sexual function and problems; overall health concerns; and preservation of bone health and prevention of osteoporosis.

Your appointment can also cover any other health concerns you may feel most comfortable discussing with your gynecologist. Another part of many routine exams is the Pap smear, with or without also testing for high-risk HPV, which is the virus that can result in cancer of the cervix, and less commonly cancers of the vagina, vulva, and anal areas.

Some of these issues will no longer be of concern after your hysterectomy.

The most common reason for hysterectomy is to stop the symptoms of fibroids, benign tumors that grow from and in the uterus. Rarely a cancer will be present with the fibroids. Other reasons for hysterectomy include severe endometriosis, abnormal bleeding not controlled with other treatments, uterine prolapse causing troublesome symptoms (this surgery would also include repair of the prolapse of the vagina, bladder and rectum), chronic pelvic pain, and cancers of the uterus, cervix, Fallopian tube, or ovary. Rarely hysterectomy would be done for severe pelvic infection or for uncontrollable bleeding after delivery of a baby. Some hysterectomies remove the cervix; others do not.

An important factor that determines how often you would see your gynecologist is whether you still have a cervix, for which cervix cancer screening would still be advised, and whether you still have any pelvic organs remaining, like one or both ovaries, one or both Fallopian tubes, or even part of the uterus, which might also need follow-up care.

If both ovaries are removed at the time of hysterectomy, you will enter menopause immediately, if you weren’t already post-menopausal. If you are younger, your surgeon may start you on hormone therapy immediately, to avoid some of the unpleasant symptoms that can occur. For older women, or those who have risk factors that contraindicate hormone therapy (such as personal or family history of breast cancer or deep vein blood clots), your gynecologist can review the multiple options available, including hormonal and non-hormonal, to address the symptoms that may be affecting your quality of life. You can also discuss options to decrease the risk of osteoporosis.

You and your gynecologist can discuss your wishes and needs, so you can decide what is best for you and your overall health, whether for treating symptoms, making lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, and recommended screening. You can work to together to determine an appropriate appointment schedule and keep you as healthy as possible for the years to come.

Have a question for Dr. Hays? Like Healthgrades on Facebook and tell us what topics you’d like to hear more about in future installments.

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THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.