The most uncomfortable aspect of your yearly gynecological examination isn’t very useful, either. To put things in perspective, the American College of Physicians suggests that doctors stop doing it altogether.
The bimanual pelvic exam is what it’s called. It involves a female patient laying on the examination bed completely naked from the waist down. Furthermore, her feet are placed in stirrups, and the physician places his/her gloved fingers into the vagina while pressing the patient’s stomach downwards with the opposite hand.
The primary purpose is to press both hands together to meet in the center, which creates a method for doctors to analyze both the position and size of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
“It’s an inherently limited exam, and in asymptomatic people it just doesn’t provide any benefit,” quipped Dr. Molly Cooke, ACP’s Immediate Past President and a member of ACP’s Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee. “Since the mid-’90s, there have been studies that show the accuracy of the bimanual exam in diagnosing ovarian cancer is extremely poor.”
The reason doctors are still conducting the exam is simple: they don’t like change, Cooke said. Though doctors used to conduct the bimanual exam to look for benign lesions and ovarian cancer (which can be extremely deadly) ovarian cancer is very rare– and those at greater risk of developing it usually have the BRCA gene mutation or have been administered ovary-stimulating fertility treatments before, Cooke continued.
What’s more, the premier way to diagnose ovarian cancer isn’t even through a pelvic exam– but an ultrasound or blood test!
“The data doesn’t support doing this element of the checkup, but a lot of doctors are still doing it,” Cooke said. “My own gynecologist still does it!”
Always remember to consult your physician or chiropractor before taking any health advice.
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