Monday, June 19, 2006

Psychological Aspects of Pelvic Surgery

One of the things that is the most daunting about a hysterectomy is that for many of us, it represents the first major surgical experience of our lives. We don't know what to expect, and when we are facing a surgery that can have so many profound effects on our lives, our health and even our own self-image, that can all add up to a terrifying prospect.

While we used to be able to turn to our doctors for assurances of what we would be facing and how it would affect us, the truth is that the current model of medical practice often speaks more to the needs of insurance companies and malpractice lawyers than patients. We may see test results and permit forms, scheduling clerks and bland, lowest-common-denominator generic informational pamphlets, but we may hardly have a chance to meet the person who will hold our life and wellbeing in their hands for a matter of hours.

But how do we manage to gain the information we need if not from our surgeons? Most of us don't even begin to know the kinds of questions we should ask because the whole situation is so distant from our normal lives. I hope that as you've read this website you've gained a clearer impression of what to expect, so that you can begin to "try on" how surgery might fit in your life and speculate on what to expect, determine what specific things you need to ask about.

I'd like to add to this by pointing to a continuing education module for doctors that has recently been posted on medscape (free registration will be required to access it): Psychological Aspects of Pelvic Surgery. As the article notes:

This article briefly considers the gynecologic surgeon's preoperative responsibilities, special needs of various patient populations, and care during and after hospitalization. The aim is to encourage gynecologists to recognize that although a gynecologic operation may be an ordinary procedure for the surgeon, it is a unique experience for the patient. Her sense of well-being and health may be threatened; she may lose control of her body for some period of time; and she may perceive the planned procedure as temporarily or permanently affecting her sexual identity. As once complicated procedures become routine, the gynecologic surgeon risks losing perspective about the impact of surgery on the life of the individual woman.

Why would you want to read an article that tells your surgeon how to meet your preop needs? Because this helps you know what your doctor could tell you, and with that information on what constitutes good care, you are better prepared to directly ask for what you need. Now you don't need to wonder if you are "being a bother" by "wasting" his precious time with questions: it's his job to be available and answering questions is exactly the opposite of bother. Now you don't need to feel that you are especially clueless for not knowing all these things, since according to this article, all women in this position need this kind of care from their surgeons. If we know what he should be doing for us, we're better prepared to make sure we get it. It's as simple as that.