Q&A: Are Pelvic Exams Necessary After Hysterectomy?

 Virginia asks: How often should a 68 year old woman who has only ovaries be checked?  My doctor only does a pelvic about every three years even though I have told him I worry about ovarian cancer.  His reply was "most women don't like being checked".  Should I get a new doctor??   [Virginia's hysterectomy was for a non-cancerous condition.]

I don't blame you for wondering about the reason you were given for your pelvic exam schedule, Virginia!  I venture to say that not many women would choose to get pelvic exams at all if it was a matter of liking them!

Gynecologists generally recommend annual pelvic exams for women after a hysterectomy, for the very reason you are concerned about.  Although a pelvic/rectal exam alone is far from fool-proof in detecting signs of ovarian cancer, it often provides the first indication that something may be wrong.  Additionally, colon cancer in women is sometimes (I have read one sixth of the time) detected with a pelvic/rectal exam, so often it is recommended to be continued even if the ovaries were removed during the hysterectomy.

As far as your question about getting a new doctor, if you are satisfied with him in all other ways, I'd just try asking directly for an annual pelvic exam.  On the other hand, any time you feel "brushed off" by a doctor after repeated attempts (anyone can have one bad day), it's often time to start asking around for other recommendations.  Your health is too important - you deserve the best care possible.

Good luck, Virginia - let us know how it goes!

 
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