It's been quite a while since I've written anything about the ongoing scandal of unnecessary hysterectomies. I've been spending my time working locally in my home town of Huntington, NY to create community gardens and grow-to-give gardens via my organization LICAN. This is my way of fighting giant agri-businesses in a way that will eventually mean their demise as people realize that communities can become self-sufficient and supply their own vegetables and eggs.
But a Jane Brody article in the April 30 NY Times has brought me back to the subject. Brody, a vastly experienced and reliable reporter, quotes experts who say that those annual, invasive pelvic exams that gynos have told us forever that we need to have--well, we don't need them unless we have troubling symptoms, or it's been more than 3 years since we've had a Pap smear to test for cervical cancer. (And, by the way, if your cervix has been removed, no need for the Pap smear either.)
According to an article quoted by Brody, "frequent routine (pelvic) bimanual examinations may partly explain why U.S. rates of ovarian cystectomy (removal) and hysterectomy are more than twice as high as rates in European countries where the use of the pelvic examination is limited to symptomatic women."
The scenario is that if a woman with no symptoms undergoes a pelvic exam, the doctor may find something suspicious that can lead to unnecessary surgery and other procedures, not to mention high anxiety and costs.
Indeed, there is no good medical evidence to justify routine pelvic exams in the absence of troubling symptoms, the experts told Brody.
But this, of course, doesn't mean that most of the gynecologists we see will stop recommending them any time soon. The doctors' trade group, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. endorses them even though they acknowledge the lack of medical evidence.
And, when 250 doctors were asked about doing routine pelvic exams, nearly all said they would do them routinely on women without symptoms, whether they were 18, 35, 55 or 70. This included a 55-year old who had no ovaries, uterus or cervix.
Yes, women's treatment by this branch of medicine is a scandal, and it's all about the money. Since these doctors get paid for an estimated 63.4 million pelvic exams and about 600,000 hysterectomies a year, I surely don't expect them to stop voluntarily.
Tell your friends!