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Clinical Trials and Hysterectomy

Over the last few months we’ve been sharing blog posts about how important clinical trials are to the future of medicine. This month I’d like to share how such research impacts directly on women undergoing hysterectomy and related treatments for gynaecological conditions they often present with.

When the Hysterectomy Association first began life in the mid 1990’s, the standard hysterectomy performed was a ‘total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo oophorectomy’. What this means is that everything was removed; the womb, the fallopian tubes, the cervix and the ovaries. At the time almost every woman having a hysterectomy only had this option and we didn’t question it. In the years since then, and thanks to the advances of medicine as a result of clinical trials, more and more women are being offered less invasive and more conservative treatments. We’ve seen the numbers of women having a vaginal hysterectomy increasing significantly and an increase in the use of laparascopic techniques and robotic surgery.

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It’s also important to note that as these changes in surgical technique have been taking place, that the numbers of hysterectomies being performed are also dropping. And over the last 15 years, the number of hysterectomies being done through the NHS has almost halved. This has only been able to happen because there has been a significant amount of research undertaken to find alternative treatments and medical interventions for many of the most common gynaecological complaints such as fibroids, endometriosis and heavy bleeding.

And successful clinical trials don’t just impact on the surgical end of hysterectomy; they also have a role to play in what happens to women going through the menopause. We’ve seen more opportunities to manage menopausal symptoms that no longer rely on oestrogen as the sole form of hormone replacement therapy. Originally, women having a hysterectomy that removed their ovaries were only offered oestrogen, but as a result of many clinical trials it’s becoming more common for women to be offered a combination of hormones to manage their symptoms. And for those who can’t be given an oestrogen based treatment, perhaps because they’ve had a gynaecological cancer the change because of research has been even greater with a range of alternative treatments that mimic the female sex hormones becoming available to them, so they can also get relief from their menopausal symptoms.

Clinical trials depend on people being willing to take part in the research taking place here in the UK. The requirements for volunteers do vary between trials and many studies do need to include healthy women who are post-menopausal, are surgically sterile such as those who have had a hysterectomy.

When someone volunteers for a clinical trial they always undergo a comprehensive pre-study medical where they are asked about their medical history and have their blood pressure, height and weight, and heart activity measured. There are often other health checks that take place before, during and after the trial as well, and it means that participants can get a really good picture about their health. It’s also worth mentioning that volunteers on clinical trials are compensated for their time and the inconvenience caused by the trial. Of course, the exact amount received depends on the length of the commitment required.

If you think you would like to find out more about volunteering for clinical trials, and to view a list of the trials for which they are currently recruiting please visit the Covance website.

(Please note that this is a sponsored post by Covance Clinical Research Unit).

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Linda Parkinson-Hardman

Transformational coach and founder of the Hysterectomy Association. Professionally I'm an information scientist who specialises in the adoption and engagement of digital technologies. I am a writer and author of nine books to date, and I've edited a further seven; phew what a lot for a Thursday afternoon :-)

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