“Total Hysterectomy” is a Total Misconception

If you’re like most women, you’ve heard the term, “Total Hysterectomy” dozens of times.  And you think you know what it means.  In fact, you’re probably certain you know what it means.

The problem is that you don’t know what you don’t know. And when everyone you know doesn’t know the same thing you don’t know, it becomes a great big misconception that everybody shares. Nobody knows that what they thought they knew is merely a misconception. And eventually, the misconception becomes so common that the truth hardly stands a chance.

Such is the case with the term, “Total Hysterectomy.”

Here’s a challenge: Go ask any number of people what “Total Hysterectomy” means. Ask people on the street or in a mall. I guarantee you that 99% (or even 100%) of them will say it means removal of the uterus, tubes, and ovaries. They may call it a “clean out.” They’ll swear that it causes menopause. And they’ll swear they know what they’re talking about.

They will be totally sure of themselves.  And they’ll be totally wrong!

Sometimes, misconceptions become so common that the true facts don’t stand a chance.

Such is the case with the term, “Total Hysterectomy.”

Here’s the truth: A “Total Hysterectomy” means removal of only the uterus and the cervix. That’s it.

Now you’ve probably heard the words “uterus” and “cervix” before. But do you really know where they are anatomically?

I like to teach in a manner that makes use of the familiar to make sense of the unfamiliar. I love finding creative ways to ensure that you fully understand the lesson and that you’ll never forget what you’ve learned. So, when it comes to anatomy (which makes most people’s eyes glaze over in a matter of milliseconds), I like to use familiar foods as props.

So, think of a pear.  It has a small, narrow base and a wide, large body. And if you hold it “upside-down,” positioning the small end below the large end, it looks exactly like a “total uterus.”

Now, focus on the small, narrow end of the pear. You see where the stem attaches? That attachment site represents an opening to the inside of the pear. And that’s exactly what the cervix is … an opening to the inside of the uterus.

Although we don’t give the small part of the pear its own name, we do give the small part of the uterus its own name. It’s the cervix. And, just as the small part of the pear is actually a part of the total pear, the cervix is actually a part of the total uterus.

So, the total uterus has two parts: the cervix and the uterus. The small portion is the cervix. The larger portion is the uterus.

We use a lot of Greek words for surgical procedures. The word “Hysterectomy” means removal of the uterus in Greek. The term “Total Hysterectomy” means removal of the total uterus in Greek. And the total uterus consists of the uterus and the cervix .

This means that if I remove the total pear, I remove both the large portion and the small portion. Likewise, if I remove the “total uterus,” I remove both the uterus and the cervix.

The term “Total Hysterectomy” does not address the tubes and ovaries at all. When someone has a Total Hysterectomy, she may or may not also have her tubes and/or ovaries removed. But there are additional (much more complicated) terms you have to add to “Total Hysterectomy” to indicate removal of more than just the uterus and the cervix.


Was your previous definition of “Total Hysterectomy” correct? Or did you hold the same misconception that 99% of the population holds? If you did, you’re totally normal. And that’s because the misconception about the meaning of “Total Hysterectomy” is totally common … and totally wrong.

Well, if you were misconceived, you aren’t any longer.

Now you know. And now, you’re in the less than 1% of people who would blow the misconception to bits.


This article, written by Dr. Barbara Taylor,  was first published on http://justvibehouston.com/, on January 3rd 2017.

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