A full hysterectomy requires removing the entire uterus including the cervix, while in a partial leaves the cervix intact. Sometimes the ovaries and fallopian tubes are removed at the same time as well, but this is considered a separate procedure.
Full hysterectomies are the most common kind, but there have been arguments in recent years that a partial hysterectomy is better. Here are some of the arguments in favor of partial hysterectomies:
Some doctors claim that leaving the cervix intact reduces the risk of uterine prolapse. They say that removing the cervix damages the supports of the vagina, making prolapse more likely.
Studies have shown that there is less likelihood of sexual dysfunction in women who have had partial hysterectomies compared to those who have had full hysterectomies. Women who've had partial hysterectomies have reported greater sexual satisfaction and more frequent intercourse and orgasm than women who've had full hysterectomies.
If there is no problem with the cervix itself, many surgeons prefer to leave it intact. They reason that there is no point in surgically removing it just because there is a problem with the rest of the uterus.
Proponents of full hysterectomies dispute these claims, citing a lack of evidence. They also argue that full hysterectomies eliminate the possibility of developing cervical cancer. This could be a concern for those who have had their uterus removed due to cancer.
Removal of the Ovaries and Fallopian Tubes
In most cases, if there is no problem with the ovaries and fallopian tubes, they are not removed. This is because the ovaries are responsible for hormone production. Leaving them intact prevents the onset of menopausal symptoms immediately after surgery.
Still, having this procedure usually means that you will go through menopause a few years earlier than you otherwise would have, unless of course you have already been through it.
Leaving the ovaries and fallopian tubes does leave the possibility of the development of ovarian cancer after the procedure. The hormones produced by the ovaries also heighten the risk of breast cancer in some predisposed individuals. If you have an increased risk of these cancers, your doctor may talk to you about going ahead and removing the ovaries.
Whether a full or partial hysterectomy is best depends on each woman's individual situation. In some cases, the entire uterus and the ovaries are damaged and everything must be removed. In others, just removing the upper part of the uterus is sufficient. It is important to discuss your options with your doctor in order to determine which procedure is right for you.