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American College of Physicians says most women don't need pelvic exams

NEW YORK (Wendy Gillete) -- A pelvic exam has long been the standard in a woman's annual wellness visit but one medical group said the harms outweigh the benefits. 

The American College of Physicians recommended against pelvic exams for most women.  The guideline said a pelvic exam, "Rarely detects important disease and does not reduce mortality and is associated with discomfort for many women, false positive and negative examinations, and extra cost."

The guideline applied to women who are not pregnant, those who are at average risk for cancer and women who don't show any symptoms.

Many gynecologists like Dr. Taraneh Shirazian at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York said pelvic exams can help detect common problems like uterine fibroids and endometriosis.  She said she'll still perform them, despite the new recommendation.

Dr. Taraneh Shirazian said, "For the vast majority of women that I've seen, they don't express any, you know, large issue with having the exam performed. And really very many are very grateful to have an assessment of the uterus and ovaries done."

In response to the new guideline, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said there was no evidence to support or refute annual pelvic exams for low-risk patients and that the decision should be between the doctor and patient.

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