For decades, women have scheduled an annual pelvic exam as part of their preventive health care. Now, the US Preventive Services Task Force says maybe that’s not necessary.
Is a Pelvic Exam a Problem?
The expert panel did not say that pelvic exams would cause harm, but rather that they couldn’t find adequate evidence that routine screening exams in the absence of symptoms improve women’s health or help prolong their lives. This uncertainty only applies to women who have no symptoms such as pain or bleeding and who are not pregnant. In such cases, a pelvic exam is clearly helpful for making a diagnosis and planning treatment.
The confusion the task force expressed about pelvic exams did not extend to PAP smears to detect cervical cancer. The experts are clear on the benefits of that screening. Most women need such screening every three years rather than annually, though. Women are urged to talk with their doctors about whether they need an annual pelvic exam.