New study recommends against annual pelvic exams for women
Routine check-ups with a gynecologist may no longer include something women have come to expect during visits - the pelvic exam.
The procedure has been performed for decades during routine gynecological checkups. Now, the American College of Physicians calls the pelvic exam an "unnecessary ritual" for most healthy women without symptoms.
"They've looked at a large number of studies, and they find that the majority of women don't have improved health because of these internal exams," said Dr. Sharon Sutherland with the Cleveland Clinic.
The group said the exams can lead to false positives, potentially adding to healthcare costs and are a source of embarrassment for some women. The new guidelines, as published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, go on to say the procedure does nothing to reduce deaths and only rarely finds dangerous disease.
"There are cases where we detect a pelvic mass on pelvic exam," Dr. Sutherland said. "In a very small number of those patients, it could be important because it could be a sign of a risk for cancer."
The majority of issues found on pelvic exams turn out to be benign but some doctors argue even non-cancerous conditions like fibroid tumors and endometriosis can be managed.
The new recommendations do not include the PAP test. In 2012, another group of doctors recommended most healthy women only need that test every three years.
"If people don't need to come in annually for their PAP and now we're saying they don't need annual gyn exams, I think far less women are gonna come in to the doctor," said Dr. Taraneh Shirazian of Mount Sinai Hospital.
The new recommendations are just that: women who want to continue with pelvic exams will be able to do so. Other national doctors' groups still recommend the annual pelvic exam.