Women in the Peace Region are twice as likely to undergo one type of major surgery than those who live further south.
Hysterectomies, a procedure that is usually recommended as a last resort to treat medical issues such as cancer or chronic pain, are more common in northeastern British Columbia, according to the 2012 Health Indicators report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information in partnership with Statistics Canada.
“In rural and remote areas, sometimes it’s hard to access health care,” said Lois Lochhead, a doctoral student at the UBC faculty of medical and rehabilitation sciences.
With 334 women out of 1,000 in the Peace Region undergoing the procedure, the likelihood of a woman here getting the surgery is more than twice the current rate in the Lower Mainland. In Vancouver, only 152 women out of 1,000 require hysterectomies.
One reason that may explain why women in the northeastern part of the province choose to undergo this major surgery is to avoid repeated trips to the doctor, according to Lochhead.
“I think what happens is people tend to want to deal with the problem (only) once,” she said.
“It might be if you’re living in Chetwynd and you to go to Fort St. John to get it looked after, you don’t want to do that very often. It could be just a more of a kind of ‘get 'er done’ mindset, but that’s certainly something we’ve asking participants – to explain why they choose hysterectomy over other methods.”
Women in the North are also more likely to get the surgery through the abdomen, which is more likely to cause severe and long-lasting damage than some other modern methods.
Lochhead has teamed up with Lela Zimmer, a nursing professor at UNBC, to complete a study involving taking a before and after look at women who have abdominal hysterectomies in the North.
“One of the things Lila is doing is interviewing people about how they feel in their body after they’ve had a hysterectomy,” said Lockhead.
Because hysterectomies are considered a major surgery, one of the goals is to explain to women the changes that they can expect to see after having the procedure done. The study will also assess whether rehabilitation should be recommended after recovery.
“All studies take place in large metropolitan areas,” said Lockhead.
“I’m a northern girl so I really wanted to do it up here where I had been practicing.”