Maybe not. The American Academy of Family Physicians released an update April 25, 2017 stating that when screening non-pregnant women without any gynecological or abdominal symptoms, no pelvic exam needs to be done. Actually, in the age of quantifying research into helpful (an “A” recommendation), the pelvic exam in this subset of patients gets a “D” recommendation, meaning it is not suggested.
This does not mean that a pap should not be done at the suggested frequency. A “pelvic exam” refers to the part of the exam when your physician puts two fingers inside your vagina and one hand on top of your abdomen. This is meant to reveal an enlarged uterus or ovaries (normally the size of almonds) or to locate the source of abdominal pain. The pelvic exam is known to be a low-yield physical exam test in patients without symptoms.
The pelvic exam is used when the patient is concerned about pelvic inflammatory disease from a sexually transmitted infection or when there is abdominal pain or bloating. The harms of pelvic exam in asymptomatic patients are thought to be fear, anxiety, embarrassment, pain and discomfort, and possibly unnecessary intraabdominal surgeries.
At routine well women exam visits family physicians have many issues to address with their patients (medications, vaccines, current complaints) and prioriztizing screening tests that have proven benefit is important to maximize this time together.