Another Medical Thing You Don’t Really Need: A Pelvic Exam

July 2, 2014 8:05 am 0 comments

Pelvic-exam-chairWe are moving, slowly, toward the day when evidenced-based medicine is more than a buzzword. The latest victim of efforts to distinguish medical practices that actually do something good from those that just cost money and cause pain is the pelvic exam, declared unnecessary in guidelines issued last week by the American College of Physicians. The Wall Street Journal reports that the College examined research published from 1946 to 2014 that studied the effectiveness of the pelvic exam, and found that it does not reduce mortality and can lead to false alarms in 1.5 percent to 3 percent of cases. The paper quotes Molly Cooke, a member of the committee that drew up the guidelines and the organization’s immediate past president: “We found that the exam is not particularly good at detecting important disease, such as early ovarian cancer, and it can fool a physician into thinking she has detected an abnormality that, once you notice, will require further investigation.” For more on medical practices that have been revealed to be no more than practices, read Aaron E. Carroll in the New York Times on What the Reduction in Tonsillectomies Teaches Us About Medicine.

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