Aimee Patton

A pleasantly eccentric take on politics

It’s the latest segment of this week in lady parts – we’ve moved on from the Hobby Lobby decision to a new debate on the national stage.  How often should women get yearly pelvic exams?  The rule has been the minute you started having sex was first a trip to the island of stirrupkey.  You want birth control?  Not without putting your feet in those stirrups first.  The 1st rule of gynoland was no prescription without a pap smear and pelvic exam.  Need birth control to control your period and not having sex?  Didn’t matter – you were still getting a pap smear and a pelvic exam.

Pap smears for everyone.  Once a year. No exceptions. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Today news broke that maybe a pap smear and pelvic exam every year are a little bit of overkill.

“Here’s what put the test under the microscope: Pap smears that check for cervical cancer used to be done yearly but now are recommended only every three to five years. So if women weren’t going through that test every year, did they still need the pelvic exam that traditionally accompanied it?

Pelvic exams are appropriate for women with symptoms such as vaginal discharge, abnormal bleeding, pain, urinary problems or sexual dysfunction, the ACP said. And women should get their Pap smears on schedule — but a Pap doesn’t require the extra step of a manual pelvic exam, it said.

For symptom-free women, years of medical studies show routine pelvic exams aren’t useful to screen for ovarian or other gynecologic cancers, they don’t reduce deaths, and there are other ways, such as urine tests, to detect such problems as sexually transmitted infections, the doctors’ group reported in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.”

Whatcha talking about Willis?

You mean all those pap smears and pelvic exams weren’t necessary?

Turns out they weren’t.

Now for all those men who are reading this out there – there are many things that women would rather do than get a pap smear.  Go to the dentist. Stand in line for hours at the DMV. Get our oil changed. Basically do anything other than get a pap smear.  It sucks.  It is pretty much one of the most humiliating experiences on the planet.  Think about putting your feet in stirrups spread eagle with a spotlight on your junk for a good 10 minutes.  Now we find out the whole time that it was totally unnecessary for women to be subjected to a yearly pelvic exam.  One every three to five years would have been a-ok.

Here’s a little secret.  I worked in family planning.  About five years ago I was at a medical conference and one of the doctors presented on this very thing.  The “breaking news” today isn’t new news.  It’s just new news from a new medical source.  The medical world has known that women have been receiving too many pelvic exams and pap smears for a long time.

It hasn’t change anything and I predict it won’t.  Why?

It’s simple.  It’s habit.  Pelvic exams keep women coming to the doctor.  It allows doctors to examine women for other things.  To be honest, it’s a money-maker.  Less pelvic exams means less doctor’s visits, less testing and ultimately less money in the system.  When I heard the doctor preach about too many pap smears years ago, the outrage in the audience was evident.  As I cheered him on from the sidelines, the practitioners in the audience were besides themselves.  What do you mean stop giving pap smears to anyone under 21?  What to do you mean only give pap smear to monogamous women every 3 years?  You were asking the audience to put down their speculums and step away from the table and they weren’t ready to disarm themselves in the battle against HPV.

It was as if we told a group of 4-year-old that Santa Claus wasn’t real.  They couldn’t wrap their heads around it.  No matter how much evidence based proof was provided, they weren’t buying it.  It wasn’t the way things had always been done.

I think this finding today and what I listened to five years ago is kind of like the mammogram issue – when evidence-based medicine comes to a conclusion that you don’t want then what happens?  Do we just ignore the evidence and keep going about things as normal because it’s the way we’ve always known? How much evidence has to be presented to change something?

I’m curious – for all the women readers will you demand that your doctor stop performing unnecessary pelvic exams and abide by the new guidelines?   Will you trust in evidence-based medicine or old habits?


One thought on “Holy lady parts! Yearly pelvic exams aren’t necessary or are they?

  1. lindiana55 says:

    This wasn’t news to a lot of folks, including my doc. I am completely in favor of fewer pelvics and mammograms. On the other hand, I do remember when I was young that getting a scrip for the pill was the only thing that got me to see a doctor once a year.

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