Expert's Corner video: Are annual pelvic exams for healthy women necessary?

UMass Medical School OB/GYN responds to new recommendations from American College of Physicians

By Jim Fessenden and Bryan Goodchild

UMass Medical School Communications

July 01, 2014

New guidelines from the American College of Physicians recommend against annual pelvic exams for healthy women, noting that the exam has no demonstrated benefit, rarely detects important disease, does not reduce mortality and is associated with discomfort, false positives and negative examinations in women who are asymptomatic, not pregnant and are at average risk for disease.

“That there is no evidence-based information to support routine pelvic exams is not new,” said Dawn Tasillo, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology. “We continue to believe that someone should exam even asymptomatic patients at least visually. But in terms of the bimanual examination in someone with no symptoms, for many people that may not be useful. “

Dr. Tasillo stressed that patients who have problems or concerns should be sure to receive the pelvic exam.

Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the new guidelines are based on a review of medical studies that found no evidence such exams help detect ovarian cancer early enough to cure it, or find other abnormalities in healthy women who have no pain, bleeding or other warning signs of trouble.