The USPSTF is an independent—and volunteer—panel of national experts who contribute preventive health care recommendations that are based on evidence gathered from all scientific studies available.
USPSTF member Francisco Garcia explains, “The Task Force is calling for more research to better understand the benefits and harms of performing screening pelvic exams in women without any complaints or symptoms.”
In addition, US Preventative Services Task Force chair Dr. Kristen Bibbins-Domingo notes, “For asymptomatic women, we are not recommending for or against.” Also a University of California, San Francisco professor of medicine she continues, “We’re issuing a call to researchers to provide us with more information.”
This is a crucial moment for studies like this as the annual pelvic exam is performed approximately 63 million times are year, costing patients upwards of $2.6 billion. This is according to data taken in 2010, so it is very likely that these numbers are significantly higher today.
She goes on to say that, currently, there does not exist any evidence that actually supports the value for annual pelvic examines in women who have no symptoms. Instead, she advises, “We think women should be aware of that and talk to their doctors about whether the annual exam is right for them.”
Now, it is also fair to remind that women who have “gynecological symptoms or concerns should discuss them with their clinicians.” Task Force member Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, who is also the Brown University Alpert Medical School chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology says, “There is not enough evidence to make a determination on screening pelvic exam in asymptomatic women for conditions other than cervical cancer screening, gonorrhea, and chylamydia.”
The Task Force advises three separate screening recommendations for the individual diseases, which are administered during a pelvic examine.
Finally, the experts say that the remarkably low prevalence of ovarian cancer among the American general population leads to low predictive values. In a study of more than 26,000 patients screened among the studies, at least 96 percent were found to have false positives; basically, this just shows that these exams are wholly unreliable and therefore mostly unnecessary.