There are new questions about routine pelvic exams for healthy women, according to draft recommendations released Tuesday by the influential U. S. Preventive Services Task Force.
The task force statement said that it is unclear whether the exams prolong women's lives.
In 2010, more than 60 million pelvic examinations were performed in the United States, based on government data. While the exams are part of a physical examination, "it is unclear whether performing screening pelvic examinations in asymptomatic women has a significant effect on disease morbidity and mortality," the task force said.
The task force released the draft recommendation statement and is collecting feedback until July 25, before issuing final recommendations.
The group made separate recommendations on screening for cervical cancer, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.
The task force notes that false-positive and false-negative rates for screening of ovarian cancer, adding that upwards of 36 percent of women who get abnormal results during a pelvic exam undergo surgery. The group also notes that few studies have reported on false-positive and false-negative rates for other gynecologic conditions, as well as no studies that "quantified the amount of anxiety associated with screening pelvic examinations."