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."