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SEX AND THE OPERATING TABLE: SURGERY AND RELATIONSHIPS

The situation is different for people who are not in established relationships. One young woman had a malignant melanoma removed from her leg, with a scar reaching up into her groin where the lymphatic tissue was cut out as well. Because of that, the scars are extensive and the leg swells from time to time. ‘I haven’t been game to get close to anyone in a sexual way since the surgery,’ she said. ‘I can’t bear the thought of ever having to reveal this scar to someone else. I don’t even like looking at it myself. Actually, I’m still really angry about it. Nobody warned me that it would look this gross.’

Any surgery that involves the genital area will obviously have sexual implications. One of the most common genital operations in women is the hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus. This is done for a variety of reasons including cancer, uncontrollable periods, or benign fibroids.

There is an old but persistent myth that when you have a hysterectomy you will get fat and hairy. Not a good look! That idea came from the days before we knew much about the way female hormones worked. In those days a hysterectomy meant taking out not just the uterus, but the tubes and ovaries as well, casting the patient into a sudden hormonal shock state called ‘the surgical menopause’. It would have been just like doing a castration (cutting off the testicles) along with a prostate operation. Fortunately they’ve since discovered the value of keeping at least one ovary if at all possible to carry on the hormonal duties, even when the uterus has to go.

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