Local doctors, cancer survivors weigh in on pelvic exam debate

by: Tenikka Smith Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Local doctors and cancer survivors are weighing in on the debate about new guidelines that suggest women don't need to get a pelvic exam every year.
Patsy Hinson and Katya Levin are ovarian cancer survivors.
Both women said it's important to have options to detect problems or symptoms as early as possible. 
But there is new debate over the benefit of the annual pelvic exam most women get each year.
Last week, the American College of Physicians released new recommendations that women should skip the yearly exam if they are not pregnant or have no symptoms of a potential problem.
Dr. Wendel Naumann with the Levine Cancer Institute disagrees:
"We have picked up pelvic masses that turned out to be cancer on annual screenings.  It's not great, but it's the only tool we have in terms of a physical exam and it adds to the other tests that we have to survey women," Naumann said.

"I would want to use every single tool available to me to find this cancer.  This particular one is so insidious because it often goes undetected," Levin said.
A pelvic exam did not detect Hinson's cancer. She was misdiagnosed for over a year, but she knows many women from her support groups who say the exam helped save their lives. 
"There were over 20 women that told me their ovarian cancer was diagnosed during a pelvic exam with their doctors," Hinson said. 
Doctors and patients agree that this debate sheds light on the need for more funding for research to develop a screening tool to specifically detect ovarian cancer.
"If we could find a diagnostic tool, which is our greatest need right now and catch this cancer early, it would totally change the future for the women who have been diagnosed,” Hinson said.
Next month, the group Lydia's Legacy for Gynecologic Cancer will be hosting a Teal Tea Party to raise money for research. Part of the proceeds stay in our community for research at the Levine Cancer Institute.