Young Women Are Getting Too Many Unnecessary Digital Vaginal Examinations and Pap Smears


A recent study warns against the excessive and often unnecessary use of Digital Vaginal examinations and pap smears in women under 21 years of age, which are usually prescribed for screening for cervical cancer risk.


Digital Vaginal examinations and cervical smears are often performed on young patients who don’t need them, researchers who published in JAMA Internal Medicine say.

The study was based on data from 3,410 young women between the ages of 15 and 20 who participated in a national family growth survey conducted between 2011 and 2017 in the United States.

From the responses, the researchers deduced that of the 2.6 million pelvic examinations performed in a year, about 1.4 million were unnecessarily prescribed to women who did not need them, more than half (54.4%).

The same applies to the cervical smear for cervical cancer lesions: of the 2.2 million patients who were prescribed pap smears, 1.6 million could have been avoided, according to the researchers’ estimates.

Educating parents

To determine the usefulness or otherwise of these examinations, the study authors relied on the recommendations of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which since 2012 have advised against vaginal contact and cervical-vaginal smears for women under 21 years of age.

“Parents of teenagers and young women should be aware that cervical cancer screening is not routinely recommended in this age group,” George F said. Sawaya, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the University of California and co-author of the study.

The recommendations indicate that pelvic examinations should be performed only on girls who have vaginal discharge, abnormal bleeding, pain, bladder weakness and sexual dysfunction. Or in pregnant women, those who use an intrauterine device (IUD) or have a sexually transmitted infection.


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