When I had my first appointment with Dr. Elizabeth Vliet, the nationally-renowned hormone expert who gave me back my life after a year of hell following my hysterectomy, she asked me a question about my body that I couldn’t answer. She asked me if I still had my cervix.
I had no idea. I assumed that since I’d had a complete hysterectomy that my cervix had been taken out as well. Or had it? And would I even know? I wasn’t even sure where a cervix is, much less what it did. Why do we even need a cervix?
I ended up calling my doctor who had performed my hysterectomy and found out that my cervix had indeed been removed. But why wasn’t I told? Isn’t this something I should have given permission for? (And was he paid a little more for removing my cervix?) Funny enough, I’d had my cervix for over four decades, during which time I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, and yet I’m not even sure what the purpose of a cervix is or what it looks like.
Researchers have suggested that it was the desire to prevent future cervical cancer that underlay the advocacy of total hysterectomy, removing the cervix as well as the uterus. However, they are now suggesting that it can have an adverse effect on bladder, bowel, and sexual function, and the reduced operating time and shorter recovery period associated with not removing the cervix outweigh the potential benefits. As a result, appropriate patients should all be offered the option of retaining the cervix. (AM J Obstet Gynecol; Mar 1999; 180:3; Pt 1; 513–5)