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Researchers find regular pelvic exams may not be necessary

For years, girls have been told that the annual pap smear/pelvic exam is one of the rights of passage to becoming a young woman. The annual exam is usually done at a patient’s PCM (primary care manager) and requires no anesthesia or time out of school or work. This week, news has surfaced that could change that regular practice for millions of female patients worldwide.

The question has arisen as to the validity of annual pap smears and pelvic examinations. According to The University of Minnesota’s Health Talk, there may be no need for this annual exam. Dr. Carrie Ann Terrell, Director of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School and Director of the Women’s Health Specialists Clinic chimed in on this new issue and states that “Historically, we cited multiple reasons requiring women to have annual pelvic exams. The most common was due to annual Pap smear screening, but with the new ASCCP guidelines we no longer routinely perform annual pap smears on many women.” As Dr. Terrell indicated, parts of the new healthcare reform act will no longer require medical procedures under which this examination falls. She goes on to say “The data suggests routine screening pelvic exams do not yield improved outcomes or reduced disease.”

How will this news affect patients? Those who say that exams such as the pap / pelvic saved their lives beg to differ, even though studies have proven that for most patients, the former is fact.

The Northeast Ohio publication, the Cleveland, reported on the collaboration between researchers at the University of California (San Francisco) and the CDC. Findings showed that “most of the physicians performed the exam in patients who had no symptoms, including an 18-year-old (younger than the ACOG recommendation) and a 55-year-old woman who has had a total hysterectomy and both ovaries removed and no other risk factors.”

This new information suggests that the first of the female population to be eliminated from any further required pap / pelvic examinations are those who are asymptomatic. Moving forward, healthcare reform may begin to classify this examination as elective and no longer mandatory. If not to simply reduce the rates of unnecessary medical examinations, there is the factor of cost reduction.