Holly Bridges, Patient. Author. Advocate.

Holly Bridges, Patient. Author. Advocate.

April 12, 2012 10:36 ET

Hysterectomy Hysteria: Canada's Healthcare System Failing Women

New Book Chronicles "The Perfect Storm" That is Denying Women Access to Safer, High Tech, Less Costly Alternatives

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 12, 2012) - Despite an explosion in high tech procedures that could increase patient safety and decrease healthcare spending, most Canadian women still undergo hysterectomy for their painful, abnormal uterine bleeding, a potentially life-threatening condition that affects one in four women worldwide and is the leading cause of hysterectomy. Hysterectomy is the second most common surgery performed on Canadian women, second only to Caesarean section. The main cause of hysterectomy, abnormal uterine bleeding, costs Canadian women $1.2 billion a year in lost wages, productivity and personal supplies, while hysterectomy costs the Canadian healthcare system $192 million a year. Sixty to 80 percent are medically unnecessary, says Holly Bridges, a patient advocate, writer and former CBC Radio and TV journalist.

In her new book, The UNHysterectomy, Bridges reveals why so many Canadian women continue to be prescribed outdated invasive, major surgery to end their bleeding despite at least 10 medical and surgical alternatives that could solve their problem and spare their reproductive organs. Even though some of these procedures can be performed in as little as 90 seconds, many Canadian hospitals refuse to offer them or impose quotas that leave women to bleed once the quotas are reached.

Bridges' book is based on exhaustive research and interviews with world-renowned experts in the field of minimally invasive gynecology, including Dr. Sony Singh, Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecology at the Shirley E. Greenberg Women's Health Centre at The Ottawa Hospital and Director of the Canadian Society of Minimally Invasive Gynecology. Dr. Singh is also the Medical Editor of The UNHysterectomy.

"These procedures are available, but the majority of Canadian women are not aware, or not being told about them for a variety of reasons," says Bridges, who avoided a hysterectomy four years ago by searching for a gynecologist who could solve her bleeding without removing her uterus. "We have the money within existing healthcare budgets. We just need to start spending it differently."

The UNHysterectomy describes "the perfect storm" that is denying Canadian women access to high tech procedures such as endometrial ablations, laparoscopic myomectomy and uterine artery embolization.

"When the medical system fails to advocate on behalf of patients, it takes a special individual like Holly to spark change," says Dr. Singh. "I believe her efforts to raise awareness through her book and social media campaign will lead to a nationwide discussion that will empower patients and make physicians more accountable."

The UNHysterectomy contains interviews with women (some of whom spent $25,000 to have high tech surgery in the U.S.) and trailblazing gynecologists (who specialize in minimally invasive gynecology) from across Canada and the United States. "I have often said in medicine 'Who you see is what you get'," says Dr. Nicholas Leyland, President of the Canadian Society of Minimally Invasive Gynecology and Professor and Chair, Obstetrics and Gynecology, McMaster University in Hamilton. "Even if physicians are aware of options, they're not always explaining them fully to their patients."

Since starting her public awareness campaign on Facebook, www.facebook.com/unhysterectomy, Bridges is now communicating with women from across North America and Great Britain to help them make more informed choices over how to cope with their abnormal uterine bleeding and its devastating, sometimes life-threatening side effects.

"I am not a doctor, just a woman and a mother who believes women have the right to make the most informed choice possible over hysterectomy. The UNHysterectomy will help them do that."

About Hysterectomy in Canada

Hysterectomy is the complete or partial removal of the uterus, and sometimes ovaries, cervix and Fallopian tubes. Although rates have been falling in recent years, some 47,000 women underwent hysterectomy at last count. Despite national surgical guidelines recommending keyhole (laparoscopic) approaches, 54 percent of the procedures involve making deep, abdominal cuts. Most hysterectomies are performed for fibroids, benign tumours that grown on or in the uterus. In contrast, minimally invasive gynecological surgery requires fewer incisions, carries a lower risk of organ perforation, requires little or no anesthetic and leads to faster, less painful recovery with lower risk of postoperative infection or complications.

About Dr. Singh

Dr. Sony Singh is Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecology at the Shirley E. Greenberg Women's Health Centre at the Ottawa Hospital. He is also an Assistant Professor with the University of Ottawa Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. After completing his medical and residency training at the University of Western Ontario in 2005, he completed fellowships in advanced pelvic surgery at the University of Toronto and the University of Sydney from 2005 to 2007. Dr. Singh is the Executive Director of the Canadian Society of Minimally Invasive Gynecology. Dr. Singh is world renowned for his surgical expertise in treating deep infiltrative endometriosis through minimally invasive means and is one of the leading experts in Canada in laparoscopic (keyhole). He also specializes in minimally invasive alternatives to hysterectomy, such as hysteroscopic and laparoscopic myomectomy and hysteroscopic endometrial ablation. Dr. Singh has been instrumental in developing new guidelines for the treatment of abnormal uterine bleeding and endometriosis for the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, guidelines which had not been updated since 2001. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and their three children.

About Holly Bridges

Holly Bridges is a former CBC Radio and TV journalist with 30 years' experience in journalism and communications. After being diagnosed with fibroids in 2007 (the leading cause of abnormal uterine bleeding), and being told hysterectomy was her only option, Bridges sought a second opinion from Dr. Singh. In 2008, she underwent two of the most sophisticated high-tech procedures available in the world today - a hysteroscopic myomectomy and a hysteroscopic endometrial ablation. She lives in Ottawa with her husband and two children.

The UNHysterectomy: Solving Your Painful, Heavy Bleeding Without Major Surgery, is her first book. It is available at www.unhysterectomy.com.

Bridges will launch her book at the National Women's Show at the Ottawa Convention Centre, Sat. & Sun. Apr. 14 & 15, 2012. She and Dr. Singh will be speaking at the show on Saturday, Apr. 14 on the seminar stage at 3:00 p.m.

Women can join the discussion at www.facebook.com/unhysterectomy and www.twitter.com/unhysterectomy.

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