No Need for Routine Pelvic Exams
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, July 02, 2014 09:49 AM

Average-risk, asymptomatic women do not benefit from pelvic exams as part of routine care and face potential harms from false-positive results, according to a new clinical guideline.

When screening for cervical cancer, clinicians should limit the physical examination to visual inspection of the cervix and use of cervical swabs for cancer or human papillomavirus, said a panel of clinical specialists convened by the American College of Physicians (ACP).

A review of more than 60 years' worth of medical literature did not produce compelling evidence that the benefits of routine pelvic exams outweigh the potential harms, the panel concluded.

In general, the studies provided little support for routine pelvic exams in average-risk, asymptomatic women who were not pregnant.  

"No data supporting the use of pelvic examination in asymptomatic, average-risk women were found," the authors concluded. "Low-quality data suggest that pelvic examinations may cause pain, discomfort, fear, anxiety, or embarrassment in about 30% of women."

After reviewing the background article and evidence review, the guideline panel offered a single but unequivocal recommendation: "ACP recommends against performing screening pelvic examination in asymptomatic, nonpregnant, adult women."