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Doctors' group says healthy women don't need regular pelvic exams

The American College of Physicians said on Monday that healthy women who do not have any symptoms of disease and are not pregnant can skip regular pelvic exams.

The organization, which looked at studies conducted between 1946 and 2014, believes that the annual exams could actually do more harm than good, CBS News reports. Studies have shown that the bimanual exam does not detect ovarian cancer like it was previously thought, and may actually increase false positives that can lead to unnecessary extra tests and procedures.

"The pelvic examination has held a prominent place in women's health for many decades, and has become more of a ritual than an evidence-based practice," wrote Dr. George F. Sawaya, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. "Regardless of whether the American College of Physicians' recommendation changes practice among obstetrician-gynecologists, it should prompt champions of this examination to clarify its goals and quantify its benefits and harms."

If a woman is having symptoms like discharge, bleeding, and pain, the ACP still recommends that she get a pelvic exam. Some doctors say they will continue to give full exams, regardless of the new guidelines.

"For me, I'm a gynecologist, so I've examined thousands of women," Dr. Taraneh Shirazian of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City told CBS News. "I've picked up very early findings in my patients, early fibroids, early cysts. Some of the patients were asymptomatic, some of the patients did have symptoms but didn't realize that those symptoms were linked with their uterus or ovaries."