No Evidence Pelvic Exams Are Necessary: Task Force
More study is needed, group says
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2016 6:20 PM CDT
   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – If you hate the annual pelvic exam, potentially good news: A government task force says there's no evidence that it's necessary to do the exams as a matter of routine for healthy, asymptomatic, non-pregnant women. The United States Preventive Services Task Force, which the New York Times describes as influential, says that there's not enough evidence to make a recommendation yet, and it's calling for more research to be done to analyze the benefits and risks associated with routine pelvic exams. (Routine cervical cancer screening is still recommended.)

The exams are controversial, with the American College of Physicians recommending in 2014 that doctors stop performing them as part of a woman's physical and the American Academy of Family Physicians endorsing that recommendation. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists still recommends the exams be given to women 21 and older each year, though PBS reports ACOG acknowledged Tuesday that there's no evidence the exams help women who aren't displaying symptoms. Some experts say routine pelvic exams can actually cause harm; the task force notes that, for example, the exams can detect ovarian cancer—but ovarian cancer is fairly rare, meaning there are often false-positives that result in unnecessary surgeries or other follow-up procedures. (Thousands of women may be getting unnecessary mastectomies.)