No Need for Routine Pelvic Exams, Doctors Say
But gynecologists disagree with doctors' group
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2014 1:55 AM CDT
Updated Jul 1, 2014 6:22 AM CDT
No more stirrups at yearly exams?   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Are the pelvic exams that make up part of routine physicals for women actually necessary? The country's second-biggest doctors' group says no, arguing that there is no evidence that the exams are useful—while there are many reports of the exams causing women anxiety, pain, and discomfort. The exam, which generally requires a woman to place her feet in stirrups while a speculum is inserted into her vagina "has become a yearly ritual," a former president of the American College of Physicians tells the New York Times, but "a lot of women dread it." The college's new guidelines suggest doctors stop performing the exams as part of physicals for healthy women.

A co-author of the new guidelines say they are based on a "very strong" review of nearly 70 years of medical studies, reports NBC. The review found that the exams rarely spot ovarian cancer, add $2.6 billion in "unnecessary costs to the health care system," and the fear or embarrassment some feel during the exam is "magnified in women who had a history of sexual trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, or in overweight women." But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists disagrees with the new guidelines and says it firmly believes in their clinical value, the Washington Post finds. A spokeswoman for the group says the exams help doctors "recognize some of these embarrassing and sensitive issues that women often will not raise with us initially."

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Showing 3 of 24 comments
plain_speaking
Jul 1, 2014 5:24 PM CDT
I was told, given my age, lack of HPV and stable relationship (and I had him tested for everything possible), I didn't need to get pap smears or exams annually...I may never again...
K.C.
Jul 1, 2014 2:34 PM CDT
It is interesting to know now that other women find that particular exam painful. I am overweight, though I don't think I am obese, but over the past ten years, the exam became excruciatingly painful, even with a pediatric speculum, when it hadn't been before. Not that I can afford to go to any kind of doctor, for anything, now, but it's nice to know I am not alone.
baldpirate
Jul 1, 2014 10:11 AM CDT
"The review found that the exams rarely spot ovarian cancer"???? No Shit Sherlock!! Pelvic exams are performed to check for Uterine Cancer as well as several types of STDs, and also to check for any other types of fungus or organism that likes to grow in a dark, moist, hot environment. Captain Obvious also didn't miss on the point of discomfort caused by the exam - Anytime a cold instrument is inserted into a body orifice, then ratcheted open, some discomfort is felt!!! But these exams are essential to the health and well being of ALL women. Good to see the ACOG is backed by thousands of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as opposed to one group of radical Primary Care D.O.s looking to lobby for less woman's health care!!!!