Do you still need a pelvic exam if you’re not at risk for ovarian cancer?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently unveiled new guidelines that say women who are asymptomatic and not at a genetic risk for ovarian cancer shouldn’t be screened. You’ll still want to talk to your doctor to see if you need that exam, though, as a USPSTF spokesperson said the exam can still be beneficial albeit awkward.
Six years, ago, the organization made the same recommendation.
Researchers say that blood tests and transvaginal ultrasounds—the methods used after a suspicious exam—cause more harm than benefits. Again, that’s only in women who don’t show symptoms or have a higher risk for the disease.
They said that screening can result in false-positive results or unnecessary surgical procedures. According to the American Cancer Society, the blood test could come up positive (for other conditions) when a woman does not have ovarian cancer. That’s why experts are still calling for better screening methods.
Dr. Stephanie V. Blank, a gynecologic oncology professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, said women who want to be tested may still be able to—but insurance doesn’t always cover the screening.
“Currently available screening for ovarian cancer using the CA125 blood test and transvaginal ultrasound is not good enough to warrant using for women at normal risk of ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Elizabeth Swisher, co-leader of the Stand Up To Cancer Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance and National Ovarian Cancer Coalition Ovarian Cancer Dream Team. “This is one of the reasons it is critically important to identify women at high, inherited risk of ovarian cancer through genetic testing.”
Blank and Swisher say to be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. These include difficulty eating, pelvic/abdominal pain, urinary frequency, and bloating. If you experience those, talk to your doctor about testing.