In So Many Words

Info-Comics by Larry Paros


Women's Scream for Health

According to the Ancient Greeks, the spleen was the organ of the body responsible for melancholia — a condition we call "depression" today. Treatment of the malady varied. Men got off rather easily. The physician made a small incision in the general area of the spleen so the unhealthy vapors might escape, allowing him to vent his spleen.

It was different, however, when it came to women. Medical authorities identified the problem as a disturbance of the uterus and its functions. No small incision for her. The entire womb had to go. The Greek word for womb is hysteria, and the operation is still known today as a hysterectomy, literally "to excise or cut out the uterus".

Behind the operation was the belief that women were much more prone to melancholia and the display of emotions than were men. Hysterics are defined as "a functional disturbance of the nervous system, characterized by such disorders as anesthesia, hyperesthesia, convulsions, etc., attended with emotional disturbances and enfeeblement or perversion of the moral and intellectual faculties."

Though the conditions that make up hysteria are not limited to any particular gender, few ever associate the word with a man — except for stand-up comedians who'd die for the label.

The hysterectomy is the second most frequent major surgical procedure among reproductive-aged women. More than 600,000 are performed each year at an estimated annual cost of more than $5 billion. In the United States, 1 in 3 women can be expected to undergo the procedure by age 60.

The real shocker, experts say, is that more than two-thirds of these operations may be unnecessary. There are many other alternate approaches available that may have fewer complications and shorter recovery times... Now this is something possibly worth really getting hysterical over.