USPSTF Weighs In on Screening with Pelvic Examination

No direct evidence for benefits or harms of pelvic exam as one-time or periodic screening test
No direct evidence for benefits or harms of pelvic exam as one-time or periodic screening test

(HealthDay News) — The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms of performing screening pelvic examination in asymptomatic, nonpregnant adult women. These findings form the basis of a final recommendation statement published in the March 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Janelle M. Guirguis-Blake, M.D., from the University of Washington in Tacoma, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review to examine the health benefits, accuracy, and harms of screening pelvic examination for gynecologic conditions among asymptomatic, nonpregnant women who are not an increased risk for any specific condition. Data were included for nine studies with 27,630 patients.

The researchers found that no trials examined the effectiveness of the pelvic examination for reducing all-cause mortality, cancer- and disease-specific morbidity and mortality, or improving quality of life. No direct evidence was found for the benefits or harms of the pelvic examination as a one-time or periodic screening test. Based on these findings, the USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is inadequate for weighing the benefits and harms of screening pelvic examinations (I statement).

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"Until more research is available, clinicians should continue to use their clinical judgment, taking each patient's individual values, preferences, and circumstances into consideration when deciding with patients whether or not a pelvic exam should be performed," a Task Force member said in a statement.

Evidence Review
Recommendation Statement
Editorial