May gynecologists treat men?
Even though gynecology literally means ‘the science of women,’ gynecologists can and have treated men before; that is, until last September when the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology ruled that gynecologists weren’t allowed to treat men, lest they lost their board certification. This was an attempt to preserve this branch of medicine as a female specialty, and ban non-gynecological work, ignoring the fact that gynecology has a long standing tradition of treating sexually transmission infections in both sexes. For example, the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical and anal cancer.
Fortunately for both patients and practitioners, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology has done an about-face and relented to the outcry of experts and patient advocacy groups, who were worried that the decision would considerably set back research, screening and treatment of anal cancer.
Anal cancer screening in men is similar to cervical cancer screening in women, and gynecologists like Dr. Elizabeth Stier of the Boston Medical Center have meticulously trained to spot cancers and precancerous lesions in the anus. Had the Board remained steadfast, not only would all that training have gone to waste, but Dr. Stier wouldn’t have been able to participate in an upcoming federally-funded anal cancer study.
Ultimately, the Board didn’t want to interfere with that study, and more importantly, didn’t want to drive a wedge between doctors and their patients. Dr. Stier had to stop seeing all of her 110 male patients, some of which she had been treating for years. While that probably wasn’t going to ruin her practice-the majority of her patients have always been female-she says she’s happy to be able to take them back, and so will they.
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