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Outmoded Pelvic Exams

Many women may be receiving medically unjustified pelvic exams.Many women may be receiving medically unjustified pelvic exams, according to a new investigation from the University of California, San Francisco. The study found that many of the 521 gynecologists and obstetricians surveyed mistakenly believe that pelvic exams are important in screening for ovarian cancer. The research team noted that under current preventive care guidelines from the American Cancer Society, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, most women also no longer need annual Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. The investigators asked the participating physicians whether they would perform a pelvic exam in patients aged 18, 35, 55, and 70 years who had no symptoms of gynecologic diseases and who didn’t need a Pap test according to the professional guidelines. Nearly all of the physicians surveyed indicated that they would perform routine pelvic exams in women who had no symptoms of gynecologic problems and were at low risk for pelvic cancers. Most of the doctors surveyed said they would perform the exam on a 55-year-old woman with no ovaries, uterus or cervix – and more than half considered such an exam to be very important for that woman. Some 87 percent of the physicians said they would perform the exam on healthy 18-year-olds. ACOG recently recommended the exam not begin routinely until age 21. The article was published online on November 12, 2012 by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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Reader Comments (1)

Feb. 28 re: Pelvic Exams for women: My good friend (79 in May) has just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The doctor told her that if she had been examined even three years ago she could have avoided the painful and debilitating chemo treatements that followed her laproscopic hysterectomy. No it is not easy to do such an exam. Yes, there are ways using for example an est-ring which keeps the cells healthy and prevents the closing of the os. Just because a procedure is no longer as easy as in younger women is no excuse for denying women protection and early detection. My friend is not the only woman is Austin to have this experience. We need Dr. Weil to be our advocate not our adversary.

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