The annual pelvic exam has long been a routine part of women’s health care, but new guidelines say there’s no good reason for it.
The recommendations, laid out by the American College of Physicians (ACP), advise against pelvic exams for women who aren’t pregnant and have no symptoms of a potential problem.
The reason? There’s no good evidence the screening exams benefit women, the ACP said.
Dr. Linda Humphrey, a member of the ACP’s Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee, stressed that the new guidelines apply only to pelvic exams, and that women should continue to have cervical cancer screenings.
The panel devised the new advice after reviewing 32 studies on the benefits and harms of routine pelvic exams.
For decades, American women have routinely had a yearly pelvic exam. The aim, doctors have said, is to spot cancers of the pelvic organs, infections, and abnormalities such as ovarian cysts or uterine fibroids.
But the ACP team found that no studies have actually tested the accuracy of pelvic exams in screening for most of those conditions.
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