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Annual pelvic exams not deemed necessary for healthy women

Cervical cancer cells
Cervical cancer cells
Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

Yearly pelvic exams have been deemed unnecessary and a waste of healthcare money for women who have no symptoms of disease, aren’t pregnant, and are known to be monogamous according to a study by the American College of Physicians. As a result, they are now advising doctors to stop using them as a screening device. The recommendation, however, is not binding.

“New evidence just doesn’t support the benefit of having a pelvic exam every year,” stated Dr. Linda Humphrey of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, who co-wrote the guideline. “There will be a lot of women who will be relieved, as well as a lot who will want to go in and talk to their physicians about this.”

She also stated that the study was part of a “growing movement to determine whether many ‘longtime’ medical practices are being done out of necessity or simply because of ‘habit.” Instances where pelvic prodding should be given include cases where a woman has vaginal bleeding or discharge, difficulty urinating, as well as pain or sexual dysfunction.

In the meantime, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are still holding to the belief that annual pelvic exams are necessary, despite any evidence pro or con about their effectiveness in preventative care. During exams doctors feel for any abnormalties in the uterus, ovaries and other pelvic organs. However, two years ago CDC scientists reported that the internal examinations “weren’t a good screening tool for detecting ovarian cancer and should not be required before a woman was placed on birth control pills.”

Pap smears to check for signs of cervical cancer were once also recommended yearly, but can not be done every 3-5 years.