Routine Pelvic Exams

CLEVELAND CLINIC, OH-- A pelvic exam is often part of a routine physical for women, but the American College of Physicians recommended against a routine pelvic exam.

Many gynecologists said these exams rarely detect important diseases or saves lives.

Dr. Sharon Sutherland from Cleveland Clinic shared, "so, the new recommendations suggest that we can eliminate routine pelvic exams for low-risk women who don't have symptoms. The reason is 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."

ACP researchers developed the guidelines after reviewing 52 studies, which found little evidence to support routine pelvic exams. They recommend physicians not offer routine pelvic exams to non-pregnant women, who are at average-risk and have no gynecological symptoms.

In addition to rarely detecting disease or saving lives, ACP researchers said the exam often causes emotional distress, embarrassment and pain and false-positive results, that lead to more invasive tests and extra cost.

Dr. Sutherland stated, "women will be given more information about the benefits and the limitations of pelvic exams and they'll be able to decide if it's right for them. The important thing is that pelvic exams should be continued for women with problems, such as abnormal bleeding or pelvic pain."

ACP researchers stressed that the guidelines do not apply to pap smear screening, only the pelvic examination. They hope their recommendations clarify the goal of the pelvic exam. After the women discuss the guidelines with their doctors, the decision will be personal.

The complete list of recommendations can be found in the "Annals of Internal Medicine."

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