A digital rectal exam is an examination of the lower rectum. The doctor uses a gloved, lubricated finger to check for any abnormal findings.
The health care provider will first look at the outside of the anus for hemorrhoids or fissures. Then the health care provider will put on a latex glove and insert a lubricated finger into the rectum. In women, this exam may be done at the same time as a pelvic exam.
For the test, the doctor will ask you to:
You may feel mild discomfort during this test.
This test is performed for many reasons. It may be done:
In men, the test can be used to check the size of the prostate and to look for abnormal bumps or other changes of the prostate gland.
A digital rectal exam may be done to collect stool for testing for fecal occult (hidden) blood as part of screening for colorectal cancer.
A normal finding means the health care provider did not detect any problem during the exam. However, this test does not rule out all problems.
An abnormal result may be due to:
Loeb S, Carter HB. Early detection, diagnosis, and staging of prostate cancer. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 99.
Marcello PW. Diseases of the anorectum. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 125.
Updated by: Todd Eisner, MD, Private practice specializing in Gastroenterology, Boca Raton, FL. Affiliate Assistant Professor, Florida Atlantic University School of Medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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