Background: Hysterectomy is a common procedure worldwide and removing healthy fallopian tubes at the time of hysterectomy (opportunistic salpingectomy) to possibly prevent ovarian cancer is increasing in frequency, but still controversial. The experiences and perceptions of women, eligible for the procedure, have not been previously investigated. This study aims to, among women waiting to undergo hysterectomy, explore i) experiences and perceptions of self and healthcare in relation to their elective surgery, ii) perceptions of risks and benefits of hysterectomy, including opportunistic salpingectomy.
Methods: A qualitative study, with focus group discussions including women < 55 years, planned for hysterectomy with ovarian preservation, was performed. Participants were recruited through purposive sampling from six gynecological departments in different parts of Sweden, including both country and university hospitals. Focus group discussions were conducted using a semi-structured interview guide, digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed by qualitative manifest and latent content analysis.
Results: Twenty-one Swedish-speaking women participated. They were 40-53 years of age, reported varying educational levels, countries of birth and indications for hysterectomy. Analysis rendered a theme "Bridging different realities" over four categories: "Being a woman today", "Experiencing and managing body failure", "Navigating the healthcare system" and "Processing continuously until surgery", including 17 subcategories. The participants displayed varying attitudes towards the significance of their uterus in being a woman. A vague understanding of their body was described, leading to fear related to the reasons for surgery as well as surgery itself. Participants described difficulties understanding and recalling information but also stated that insufficient information was provided. Perceptions of the risks and benefits of opportunistic salpingectomy varied. Involvement in decisions regarding the hysterectomy and potential opportunistic salpingectomy was perceived to be dependent on the counselling gynecologist.
Conclusions: The theme Bridging different realities captures the complexity of women deciding on removal of their uterus, and possibly fallopian tubes. It also describes the women's interactions with healthcare and perceived difference between the health professionals and the women's perception of the situation, as viewed by the women. Bridging the different realities faced by patients is required to enable shared decision-making, through sufficient support from healthcare.
Keywords: Health literacy; Hysterectomy; Opportunistic salpingectomy; Preoperative care; Preoperative consultation; Qualitative; Shared decision-making.