Web edition: May 18, 2004
Print edition: May 22, 2004; Vol.165 #21 (p. 335)
"Surgical Option: Hysterectomy may top drugs for women with heavy bleeding" (SN: 3/27/04, p. 196: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040327/fob4.asp) doesn't mention that 13 to 20 percent of women with heavy menstrual periods have a common but often undiagnosed bleeding disorder called von Willebrand disease. Because this disorder is often treatable by medication, many of the hysterectomies performed to stop bleeding could be prevented. The National Hemophilia Foundation and its local chapters are making a nationwide effort to raise awareness about von Willebrand disease.
New England Hemophilia Association
Your article fails to mention newer therapies. Many women with heavy bleeding who do not have malignant disease or fibroids are candidates for endometrial ablation procedures, in which the uterine lining is destroyed without removal of the uterus. Even patients with fibroids may be candidates for embolization, targeted ultrasound, or other emerging therapies.
Robert D. Sheeler
A good deal more could be learned if similar studies were conducted in societies where hysterectomies aren't as readily available as they are in the United States and Finland. The fact that hysterectomies are perhaps the more socially acceptable option in wealthy industrial societies may mean little in terms of their actual, medical effectiveness.
James M. Bryant
Riverside Municipal Museum
"The Social Lives of Snakes" (SN: 3/27/04, p. 200: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040327/bob8.asp) suggests that pregnant rattlesnakes might give their offspring a better chance of survival if they congregated for birth. If that were true, one might expect that there would also be a convergence of birth times. While doing research over 25 years ago, we had five of six pregnant rattlesnakes caged together all give birth the same evening. Coincidence? Pheromones? Common environmental trigger? I agree that the efforts of these mothers, which even forgo eating, are "heroic."