It is no secret that most women are more health conscious than men are. This is partly due to the annual pelvic exam ritual, which begins around puberty for most girls, and had been thought to be necessary to evaluate developing pathologies in the vagina and cervix.
As with many preventative procedures lately, the evidence is not compelling that this yearly ritual actually does anything, and with 60 million pelvic exams done yearly, there is a lot of data that we as a society can draw from, to determine if the procedure is of any preventative value.
While the pelvic exam as a procedure is now suspect, the evidence is not going to mean your doctor will never do these exams, as doctors are likely to wait for more evidence of the benefits vs. the risks before they change how they practice or what they recommend to their patients.
Check out this article that was recently in the NY Times
Pelvic Exams May Not Be Needed
By Roni Caryn Rabin June 28, 2016
Many women dread the indignity of the annual pelvic exam, in which they are poked and prodded with their feet in stirrups.
Now an influential government task force says there isn”™t evidence that routine pelvic exams are necessary or prolong a woman”™s life. Some experts think they may even do more harm than good.
And although some 60 million pelvic exams are done each year, the practice hasn”™t been studied much. The United States Preventive Services Task Force, a panel of experts in preventative and primary care, declared today that the current evidence is “œinsufficient” to assess the balance of benefits and harms of the pelvic exam. The task force performed an exhaustive search of the medical literature published over the past 60 years and located only eight studies looking at the diagnostic accuracy of pelvic exams for just four medical conditions.
“œWe can”™t make a recommendation one way or the other at this time,” said Dr. Maureen Phipps, the chairwoman of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University”™s Warren Alpert Medical School and a member of the task force. “œWe need more evidence.”
The finding refers only to the practice of routine pelvic exams for healthy women, and does not apply to women who are pregnant or those with existing conditions or symptoms that need to be evaluated.