According to the American College of Physicians, healthy women no longer need an annual pelvic exam.
The new guidelines, recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, recommend that healthy, low-risk women should not have routine annual pelvic exams.
The expert panel appointed by the American College of Physicians not only found that annual pelvic exams result in no benefit to healthy, low-risk women, they also found that the exams often cause discomfort and distress and can sometimes lead to unnecessary surgery.
The panel did stress that the guidelines only apply to the pelvic exam, and only to healthy women. The guidelines also urge women to continue getting checked for cervical cancer.
But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists disagrees, still recommending a yearly pelvic exam for all women.
In fact, Dr. Susan Oakley, director of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery with St. Elizabeth Physicians, said she thinks it would be hard to find a gynecologist who agrees with the American College of Physicians.
“I just can’t imagine a body part that important should ever be neglected,” she said. “We women have so many risk factors for cancer in those areas, and with colon and rectal cancer on the rise right now we would really be doing women a disservice if we avoided pelvic exams because there’s so much information that can be gleaned from them.”
The annual pelvic exam is conducted to detect abnormalities in the vagina, vulva, uterus and ovaries.