If you’re one of the rare (nonexistent) ladies who marks her yearly gynecologist appointment with happy face stickers and an excited countdown to the exam table, then the idea of limiting them may be a bit gloomy. For the rest of us, however, this is actually very good news. If you, like me, dread having that awkward speculum encounter, it’s time to rejoice! Women all over the country can now maintain confidence and composure at their next annual female wellness exam, thanks to the growing change of philosophy among physicians and medical research. It’s now being reported that annual pelvic exams can create more problems for women than what benefits actually are gained. The American College of Physicians feels these procedures aren’t absolutely necessary on an annual basis.
In fact, many medical practitioners think pushing a pelvic exam onto a woman annually can cause more harm than good.
It?s common knowledge that the procedure is embarrassing and uncomfortable to most. I have yet to hear about a woman who genuinely enjoys pelvic exams, and I’m quite confident that if we did not believe them to be important we would avoid them altogether. It’s a fact that many women do forego seeing their gynecologist every year, simply because they want to avoid this unpleasant test. In light of these new findings by The American College of Physicians, many medical practitioners now see that healthy women simply don’t need such an intrusive procedure when there is no viable or relevant health concern present.
It is important to point out, however, the existing recommendation that women still have a routine pap smear every couple of years. This definitely changes female care, though. Naturally, myself, and women everywhere can now exhale a sigh of relief. We can say “bye-bye” to those unwanted stirrups, attached to that cold, unfeeling exam table, at least, for a few years! But, how does this change routine wellness visits, and are more women favorable to the idea?
Now Women Can Relax During Routine Wellness Visits
It is a pertinent fact, as any woman can honestly point out, pelvic exams have always been a part of a wellness check-up, even though they’ve been the most stressful and worrisome part of the exam. While women have been previously educated to believe pap smears were necessary every single year; again, this is now misguided, baseless advice. The best news to all of this lies in how many women won’t go and ignore their wellness exam today. In fact, physicians feel that more women will stay on top of their health-care since they won’t have fears of being poked and prodded wile lying on a cold examining room table. So, yes, it has been the fear and un-comfortableness of the pelvic exam that has prompted women to forego any visit to their ob/gyn for many years. But now we can reduce that fear to a third of our annual visits, and while the three-year visit may still come with some anxiety, I think we can all agree with Meatloaf when he famously sang: “Two out of three ain’t bad.”
I’m pretty sure that song was about pap smears, actually.
Avoiding wellness visits altogether is a big problem, and often carries detrimental consequences. For instance, there are thousands of women who haven’t had a female wellness exam in decades due to the worry and stress routine pelvic exams caused them. This has increased the risk of many diseases for women, which could be easily prevented. It has also prevented early intervention for problems, which could normally be easily managed. So, the transformation in this line of care will, and is, definitely going to improve the health of women across the US. Women will have less reason to neglect their yearly wellness checkup, and more reason to keep their medical records up to date.
Still, there is definite medical controversy surrounding these previous, routine examinations. While The American College of Obstetricians still feels there is a necessity to have this included in the wellness exam every year, The American College of Physicians feels this shouldn’t be a requirement.
The bottom line is that: “Healthy women, women who aren’t sexually active, and young girls still in adolescence just don’t need an annual pelvic exam.”
A Pelvic Exam Every 3 Years Benefits Women And Physicians
There are many reasons why the pelvic exam is best suited for every 3 years, and for some female patients who are otherwise healthy, and non-sexually active, this is an understandable time frame. The thought used to exist that even those women who weren’t sexually active should have a yearly pelvic exam, but adolescence, sexual health, and general wellness are now taken into consideration. For example, women who suffer from constant polyps, painful menstrual cycles, or ovarian cysts should have yearly pelvic and pap smears to be safe. This is a specific consideration that many medical professionals take into account during routine wellness exams. No longer do practitioners lump all patients into the same category. The care of the individual patient appears to have now taken center stage; specifically within female care. It might be due to minimize disease risks, or it just might be to manage and maintain the existing good health of the female patient without undue stress. Just as non-sexually active women don’t require an annual pelvic exam, women who are 50 or older, and free from pelvic complaints, certainly don’t need this aggravating procedure either.
The What-For On The Pap Smear
The Pap smear can definitely provide reassurance for women who are more prone to circumstances such as: venereal warts, polyps, cysts, and even cervical cancer. At the same time, for the majority of women, this test is just fine given every two years, not every year. The fact is, false results can often occur with this routine test, which can lead to an increased sense of worry and anxiety when there might not be a need for any at all. Even unwarranted surgeries have taken place, putting the lives of women at risk for no real reason at all.
Now, what a woman should look for with regard to her sexual health is quite obvious. For the most part, women have a sense of when something isn’t quite right. If you have extreme pain between periods, or longer periods than normal – even these are hints you might have a gynecological issue which would warrant a pelvic exam with a pap smear. This still wouldn’t be necessary every year if your tests come back normal.
The Pap smear itself is best for detecting unspecified cell abnormalities, STDs, and even scarring, which might cause pain for some women. When performed correctly, accurate results can be acquired which can save lives, or at the very least, give the diagnosis for proper medical treatment. The exceptions to never needing a pap test regularly are as follows:
- If you’re older than 65 and have had normal Pap smears in the past
- If you’ve had a hysterectomy and your cervix was removed
- Women who have no history of cervical cancer or abnormal pap smears
- Those with no abnormal test results within 10 years
If you stay on top of your health and monitor your body for even the slightest of changes, you can prevent cervical cancer and improve the quality of your life in general. Remember, those 65 years old, and of who have had a normal pap smear for 10 years receive the magical prescription of never needing another. For women younger than 65 years of age, pelvic exams every three years and a Pap test every two years are the consistent recommendation. Keeping up with this routine will help ensure your chance of getting that golden ticket after 65!