A new guideline published Monday from the American College of Physicians says doctors should not do pelvic exams on non-pregnant adult women with no symptoms of disease. A review of the exams found they rarely catch disease but are costly, uncomfortable and even embarrassing.
The guideline does not apply to Pap smear screening for cervical cancer, which should be done every three to five years, depending on a woman's age. And it's sure to be controversial — the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists remains in favor of an annual exam. American College of Physicians members are internists, specialists in the care of adults.
"There just wasn't evidence that [routine pelvic examination] was beneficial," says Humphrey. The review found that pelvic exams rarely detected ovarian cancer or bacterial infection and did not reduce mortality. Yet they add $2.6 billion in "unnecessary costs to the health care system," according to the journal article.
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