The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

Recommendations from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) on treating hypertension or hyperlipidaemia, prescribing benzodiazepines, self-monitoring of blood glucose, proton pump inhibitor therapy and screening for vascular disease. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is Australia’s largest professional general practice organisation and represents urban and rural general practitioners. We represent more than 30,000 members working in or towards a career in general practice. There are more than 125 million general practice consultations taking place annually in Australia.

Don’t routinely do a pelvic examination with a Pap smear.

Date reviewed: 1 March 2016

During a routine cervical smear (Pap test) for screening (i.e. no symptoms), a bi-manual pelvic examination has no proven benefit, as it has not been shown to improve the detection of ovarian cancer or to benefit other outcomes. In a large study of Australian women undergoing routine screening pelvic examination, no ovarian malignancies were found, and the high prevalence of benign abnormalities (bulky/fibroid uterus in 13%, abnormal adnexal findings in 2%) often led to further investigation.

A recent US review concluded that no data supports the effectiveness of speculum or bimanual pelvic examinations in the asymptomatic, average-risk woman. The procedure causes pain, fear, anxiety, and/or embarrassment in a third of women and can lead to unnecessary, invasive, and potentially harmful diagnostic procedures. Pelvic examinations require additional clinician time and, for consultations not otherwise requiring intimate examination, the consideration of a chaperone. Therefore, unnecessary examinations lead to resource and opportunity costs.

Recommendation released March 2016

Supporting evidence
  • Grover SR, Quinn MA. Is there any value in bimanual pelvic examination as a screening test? Med J Aust 1995;162(8):408-10.
  • Ebell MH, Culp M, Lastinger K, Dasigi T. A systematic review of the bimanual examination as a test for ovarian cancer. Am J Prev Med 2015;48(3):350-6.
  • Simms I, Warburton F, Weström L. Diagnosis of pelvic inflammatory disease: time for a rethink. Sex Transm Infect 2003;79(6):491-4.
  • Bloomfield HE, Olson A, Cantor A, et al. Screening Pelvic Examinations in Asymptomatic Average Risk Adult Women [Internet]. Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs; 2013 Sep.
How this list was made How this list was made

Recommendations 1 - 5 (April 2015)

All RACGP members were invited, and five GPs selected, to join the Choosing Wisely panel. They raised 28 issues, researched these and voted on a shortlist of 10. The voting for this shortlist was based on the amount of supporting evidence available, the degree of importance for patients, and the frequency of the test or treatment being used by Australian GPs. Opinion from the entire College membership was then sought via online survey, to choose five of the shortlisted 10. Additional free-text comment was encouraged, with good response rates. This national vote determined the final five topics.

Following an NPS Representatives meeting, two on that list were found to duplicate other Colleges' choices, and it was felt the RACGP could endorse these rather than replicate them. Therefore the next two highest voted options were selected instead.

Recommendations 6-10 (March 2016)

The RACGP Working Group established for Wave 1 of Choosing Wisely identified 32 candidate topics for Wave 2, then shortlisted fifteen, spread across four categories – screening, imaging, pathology and treatment. The shortlisting criteria were: quality of supporting evidence; importance for patients; and number of Australian GPs using the test or treatment. A dedicated workshop was held at the RACGP Annual Scientific Meeting, ‘GP15’, and the entire RACGP membership was asked to vote for their ‘top five’ via online survey. Additional free-text comment was encouraged, with good response rates. The top five topics from this national vote were written up by the Working Group and reviewed by the RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care.

Download RACGP Recommendations