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Women often go for pelvic examination as a part of their gynecologic check-up on routine basis but a new study by American College of Physicians (ACP), the second-largest physicians’ organization of the United States, has made some controversial findings.
According to ACP, healthy women who are not pregnant do not need to undergo routine pelvic examinations as they are tend to be more harmful for them.
ACP represents 137,000 internal medicine physicians and related specialists.
According to the organization, the routine diagnostic procedure is uncalled for healthy women who are not expecting child, as it causes unnecessary discomfort, anxiety and pain to them, besides, inviting additional financial burden for them.
“Routine pelvic examination has not been shown to benefit asymptomatic, average risk, non-pregnant women. It rarely detects important disease and does not reduce mortality and is associated with discomfort for many women, false positive and negative examinations, and extra cost,” said Dr. Linda Humphrey, member of the ACP Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee and co-author of the new guideline.
Humphrey also clarified that the review only took note of the pelvic exams and the new guideline only applies to it. She further said that the same is not applicable to Pap smear screening for cervical cancer.
Humphrey said that her team commenced the review on pelvic exams following the 2012 guidelines of the US Preventive Services Task Force that talked only about cervical cancer and not addressed pelvic exams.
The pelvic exam has been in practice for many decades in the US as it was considered to be the standard part of gynecologic check-up. It has been a regular part of preventive care for women in the US. According to an official data, 63.4 million exams were performed in 2008.
The efficacy of pelvic exams has been challenged on several occasions. In December 2012, a team at University of California – San Francisco (UCSF) questioned the reasons for routine pelvic exams after it found some startling revelation about it in a national survey.
The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition has posted a recommendation on its website asking that “women age 18 and above should have a mandatory annual vaginal exam.” It has, however, also noted that “in most cases, ovarian cancer is not detected during routine pelvic exams, unless the doctor notes that the ovary is enlarged.”
The review is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.