Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pushing Away the Pelvic Exam

Going to the gynecologist can sometimes be a scary thing, especially when many women don't know what to expect. However, the major reason is because of the infamous pelvic exam that many of us dread. Pelvic exams are a way for physicians to look for illness in organs of the body such as the vulva, uterus, cervix, etc. This exam has traditionally been conducted annually (though this may be changing), when a woman is pregnant, or if she has an infection. Generally, this test should not be conducted during one's menstrual period, or post douche, use of birth control cream, or sex. Further, this examination can often be uncomfortable because of its invasive nature and use of hands. Often times, cultural or social barriers may be the root cause of a patient's hesitation to get this examination.

Pelvic exams can detect diseases ranging from ovarian cancer to STIs like bacterial vaginosis, genital herpes, trichomoniasis.  In fact, the United States has been shown to conduct twice as many cystectomies and hysterectomies compared to European countries because of findings on bimanual examinations.

However, often times, these exams may reveal benign conditions that can cause anxiety due to the need for further testing. Moreover, these tests are not the most effective screening tool to detect cancer, and additional measures are needed.

Therefore, considering these pros and cons, patients should have a say in and understand why their pelvic exam is being conducted.  Their awareness and understanding about its utility will help make them more comfortable with the exam. To ensure this sense of partnership between patients and physicians, medical evidence and personal support must be given to women to assure them that they are empowered in their decision making.




Meghana Pisupati

IMS 2017

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