Pelvic exam may do more harm than good

The American College of Physicians has released new guidelines for gynecologic checkups that recommend against performing the routine pelvic exam. The report, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, says these exams may be more harmful than beneficial.

After analyzing 52 published studies, the group believes the exam isn’t a good practice for detecting diseases, has not been proven to reduce mortality or risk, and actually leads to false positives and high costs. However, it acknowledged that a pelvic exam is necessary in women who exhibit symptoms, such as abnormal bleeding, pain, and urinary issues. But it found no evidence that the pelvic exam is needed in asymptomatic, average-risk women.

Furthermore, one researcher noted that the exam can trigger anxiety, embarrassment, discomfort, and stops some women from receiving proper care. Some researchers have suggested the pelvic exam is more rooted in ritual than evidence.

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