Pelvic exam stirrups in a doctor's office.

Do women need to undergo an annual pelvic exam? Maybe not, according to a new paper published this week by the American College of Physicians. The study concludes that annual screenings cause unnecessary pain and discomfort and are not effective in detecting cancers. We’ll hear from health professionals about the pros and cons of annual pelvic exams.

Barbara Levy, vice president of health policy at The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
George Sawaya, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at UCSF and co-author of the editorial accompanying the American College of Physician's paper

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    I have a screening anecdote which went the other way. A friend of my aunt’s went in for a routine colonoscopy, the doc perforated his colon, and the friend spent a few days in hospital before they found the perforation and could repair it. My friend almost died, lost around 35 pounds and spent months regaining his strength.

    And no, he didn’t have cancer. Screenings are not always 100% bening. I think that women and men should have access to these types of studies (like you’re discussing) so that they can work out the balance for themselves.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    My mother in law died of ovarian cancer. She felt horrible as she had missed her annual exam. But the doctor told her that her Stage Four, grapefruit-sized cancer had probably grown to that size in teh space of four months.

    I think that we over-emphasize the effectiveness of annual exams when it comes to big bad cancer, which is really why most women go. I agree that for nasty chronic conditions these types of visits are very important. And not to find out just because insurance cos. may manipulate the data or abuse it for their own purposes is just appalling.

  • Esther

    I would no sooner skip an annual pelvic exam than I would my semi-annual teeth cleaning. Neither of these exams are comfortable and sometimes hurt, however, in my opinion, the benefit of these exams far out way the “harm”. Thank you for having Dr. Levy as part of the discussion to provide an intelligent, knowledgeable, compassionate and responsible voice to the conversation.

  • Jonnie

    To tell you the truth, I really don’t care about womyn and their pelvises. Is it really necessary to spend an hour of radio airtime discussing womyns’ private parts? Isn’t this stuff a private matter between a womyn and her doctor… I mean, that’s what they’re always harping on about!

  • wildlifegypsy

    I know I’m late to the conversation, but when my visit this year did not include the pelvic exam, I was THRILLED. So much anxiety for nothing. There were years where I needed the pelvic exam due to symptoms, but I also have had, and know others who have had exams that were so poorly done that I was left in tears and felt somewhat violated (and never returned to that practice). I have friends who avoid getting any appointment with their OBGYN due to their discomfort with the pelvic exam. I also firmly believe every OBGYN needs to see a performance of the Vagina Monologues “My Angry Vagina”.

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