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Healthy Women can Skip Routine Pelvic Exams, Experts State

Update Date: Jul 01, 2014 09:21 AM EDT

Every year, women go through the routine pelvic exam that often causes pain and anxiety. Even though doctors have been practicing this exam for years, a group of physicians has drafted a new recommendation stating that these exams should be stfor healthy women because they are not effective in detecting diseases.

"The pelvic examination has held a prominent place in women's health for many decades and has come to be more of a ritual than an evidence-based practice," Dr. George F. Sawaya and Dr. Vanessa Jacoby wrote in an editorial alongside the newly published recommendation reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The experts from the American College of Physicians conducted an evidence review and found no research at all regarding the benefits of using pelvic exams in diagnosing ovarian cancer. The experts added that these visual and manual exams cannot accurately identify gynecological cancers, venereal or pelvic inflammatory disease or bacterial infections. They concluded that the pelvic exam is an ineffective tool and healthy women should not be subjected to them.

The experts stated that roughly 60 to up to 80 percent of women who are of childbearing pain report feeling pain or discomfort from these exams. For some women, the discomfort could be enough to dissuade them from returning to the gynecologist's office. In order to prevent women from skipping the doctor's office, the experts stated that doctors could stop giving these exams. The experts added that if doctors decide to keep performing these exams, they should tell their patients the goals, benefits and harms of undergoing these pelvic exams.

The new recommendation does not apply to women who are suffering from pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, or sexual dysfunction.

"This recommendation will be controversial," added Dr. Sawaya according to NPR.

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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