I have a very scientific method for choosing a new doctor. First, I look at their website. If it doesn’t look like a Geocities site from 1995, they’re definitely in the running. If they offer text reminders for appointments, even better. And if I can make an appointment online? I’m basically sold. I told you, science.
Needless to say, I’m not so great at making and keeping doctor’s appointments. How do I know where I’ll be on at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday six months from now? Will I have the same job? Will I be living in the same place? What’s my hair going to look like? Too many variables, man. I can’t even begin to think about annual appointments.
That’s why people like me will be pretty psyched about the new guidelines from the American College of Physicians that says most women don’t need annual pelvic exams. Annual pelvic exams benefit those who are pregnant or have some form of disease – otherwise, they aren’t completely necessary for everyone else.
How can this be? Pelvic exams have long been administered out of habit and were simply part of most gynecological exams. Pap smears for cervical cancer are only recommended every three to five years now, and a pelvic exam doesn’t need to accompany a pap smear. STDs can be detected with a urine sample, so no pelvic exam is needed there either. Of course, women experiencing any abnormalities like pain or urinary problems should always get a pelvic exam, so don’t assume everyone is off the hook.
The purpose of a pelvic exam is to screen for abnormalities in the ovaries, uterus and other pelvic organs. But it was discovered years ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that these internal exams weren’t that great of a screening tool for ovarian cancer after all.
I’m not sure about you, but a pelvic exam is never the highlight of my day. These new guidelines are especially beneficial for survivors of sexual abuse, as they help women avoid the anxiety and discomfort associated with pelvic exams. This also cuts down on unnecessary costs and time spent too.
Now, the issue here is that people like me can potentially take this as a sign to blow off gyno visits. Not needing annual pelvic exams doesn’t mean you don’t have to make regular appointments – you still do, and you still need to discuss all of this stuff with your doctor. The good news? People like me can be less afraid of making these appointments knowing that they don’t necessarily involve a pelvic exam. And if anything can encourage me to actually make and remember a doctor’s appointment, I’m all for it.
How do you feel about these guidelines? Do you still get annual pelvic exams? Share with us in the comments section!