In 2010, doctors performed 62.8 million of these routine pelvic examinations on women across America. In total, gynecological screenings cost the U.S. $2.6 billion every year. And yet, a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that there is no established medical justification for the annual procedure. After scouring nearly 70 years of pelvic exam studies, conducted from 1946 to 2014, the researchers found no evidence that they lead to any reduction in “morbidity or mortality of any condition” among women.
As I’m learning, ritual plays a very important role in science.
In an editorial also published in Annals, internists George Sawaya and Vanessa Jacoby of the University of California–San Francisco, conclude that the pelvic examination has “become more of a ritual than an evidence-based practice.” Sawaya told me that the routine pelvic exam is such “a foundational cornerstone” of gynecology, it’s hard to even trace its origins. The new report urging doctors to reverse course will be “very controversial,” Sawaya says. “I expect a lot of physicians to raise their eyebrows.”
Amanda Hess has more.