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Med J Aust. 1995 Apr 17;162(8):408-10.

Is there any value in bimanual pelvic examination as a screening test.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne, Royal Women's Hospital, Carlton, VIC.



To assess the place of bimanual pelvic examination as a routine procedure in healthy women.


2623 healthy, asymptomatic volunteers (mean age, 51 years; range, 25-92 years) underwent pelvic examination as part of an ovarian cancer screening program. The presence of a bulky or fibroid uterus and adnexal abnormality was noted. Pelvic ultrasonography was used to investigate adnexal abnormalities and was also performed in all women with an elevated serum CA-125 antigen level (> 35 U/mL). Laparoscopy or laparotomy was performed as clinically indicated.


A bulky or fibroid uterus was detected in 12.9% of women. The prevalence of abnormal adnexal findings was 1.5%, with a positive predictive value for a subsequent diagnosis of benign adnexal abnormality of 22%. The specificity of vaginal examination for malignancy was 99.9%. No ovarian malignancies were identified at initial screening.


This "routine" procedure is undertaken in the belief that it serves a screening purpose. The detection of benign uterine abnormality is of no clear benefit as progression to malignancy is rare. Bimanual pelvic examination is of questionable value as a screening strategy in view of the low incidence of ovarian cancer in healthy women, and the relatively high prevalence (1.5%) of relatively unimportant adnexal abnormalities.

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