For many busy women, getting to a doctor for an annual pelvic exam can be a hassle. Now, there’s good news: a new report finds that the vast majority of healthy women can skip that examination.
The report comes from the American College of Physicians (ACP), which recommends that doctors stop using pelvic exams as a screening tool. The ACP report went on to state that pelvic exams show no benefit for women who demonstrate no symptoms of disease or pregnancy.
According to Dr. Linda Humphrey, who works at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University, scientific research “just doesn’t support the benefit of having a pelvic exam every year.”
Dr. Ranit Mishori, a physician at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, expects that many patients and doctors will be pleased with the report.
“Many women will be happy to hear that, and I think also, frankly, many physicians will be happy to hear it,” Dr. Mishori said. “Many of us have stopped doing them for a long time.”
Still, Dr. Humphrey admits that not all women will embrace the news. “There will be women who are relieved, and there are women who really want to go in and talk with their doctor about it and will choose to continue this,” she said.
Most women will be familiar with pelvic exams, which are often used to check for cervical cancer and other significant health threats. The exam involves a physician feeling for abnormalities in the ovaries, uterus, and other pelvic organs. For many women — and especially victims of sexual abuse — the exam represents an uncomfortable trial.
Nevertheless, it’s estimated that more than sixty million pelvic examinations were carried out in the United States alone in 2010.