If you are like most women and dread those annual pelvic exams, we have good news for you!
According to a new finding by the American College of Physicians, healthy women no longer need to go through the intrusive exam.
“It’s an intrusive test, it’s a test women don’t like, and there’s no evidence that we should be doing it,” says Dr. Hanna Bloomfield, the associate chief of staff of research at the Minneapolis VA Healthcare System.
During the test, a woman lies on her back with her feet in the stirrups. The doctor then conducts a “bimanual exam," which is when the doctor examines the woman internally with one hand and then applies pressure outside with the opposite hand. The doctor then uses a speculum to look for cancer, noncancerous masses, and infections in the pelvic organs, including the uterus and ovaries.
While this may be what most women are used to when they go for their yearly well-visit, the evidence review has lead to doctors altering their recommendations. The doctors have determined that non-pregnant women with no symptoms no longer need a yearly pelvic exam. They have found that the tests can do more harm than good, and should no longer be used as a screening tool.
Some of those harms includes pain, discomfort, anxiety, embarrassment and fear for the woman, along with false positive test results, according to Dr. Bloomfield. “Once you find something, it’s really hard to ignore it,” Bloomfield said. “How many women are you subjecting to all those follow-up tests and procedures when really there wasn’t a problem to begin with?”
According to the guideline coauthor Dr. Linda Humphrey of the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University, the scientific research "just doesn't support the benefit of having a pelvic exam every year." "There will be women who are relieved, and there are women who really want to go in and talk with their doctor about it and will choose to continue this," Humphrey added.
While the new findings suggest that annual pelvic exams are no longer needed, there are some groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who still believe that women should have the exams.
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