Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)
A digital (finger) rectal examination is done to check for problems
with organs or other structures in the pelvis and lower belly. During the
examination, the doctor gently puts a lubricated, gloved finger of
one hand into the
rectum. He or she may use the other hand to press on
the lower belly or pelvic area.
digital rectal exam is done for men as part of a complete physical examination
to check the
prostate gland . It is done for women as part of a
gynecological examination to check the uterus and
ovaries. Other organs, such as the bladder, can
sometimes also be felt during a digital rectal exam.
Why It Is Done
digital rectal exam (DRE) is done to:
- Check for growths in or enlargement of the
prostate gland in men. A tumor in the prostate can often be felt as a hard lump.
This may be done as part of a regular examination or to check on symptoms, such
as a change in urination. Not all problems of the prostate can be felt through
- Check for problems in a woman's
reproductive organs , such as the uterus and ovaries.
It is often done during a regular
pelvic examination and
Pap test. It may also be done to check on symptoms,
such as pelvic pain or vaginal bleeding.
- Help find the cause of
symptoms such as rectal bleeding (blood in the stool), belly or pelvic pain, a
change in urination, or a change in bowel habits.
- Collect a stool
sample to test for blood in the stool.
- Check for
hemorrhoids or growths, such as cancer, in the rectum.
DRE alone is not used to diagnose
colorectal cancer. Also, a DRE may not find internal
hemorrhoids because they are soft and hard to feel. A
sigmoidoscopy may be needed to diagnose internal
How To Prepare
If you have hemorrhoids, tell your
doctor before the examination begins. Your doctor
will try not to bother your hemorrhoids.
How It Is Done
For a digital rectal exam, you will take
off your clothes below the waist. You will be given a gown to wear.
- A man is often examined while he stands,
bending forward at the waist. A man can also be examined while lying on his
left side, with his knees bent toward his chest.
- A woman is often
examined while lying on her back on an examination table, with her feet raised
and supported by stirrups. A
rectovaginal exam is often done for women so that
organs in the pelvic area can be checked. But a digital rectal exam also can be done with a woman lying on her left side, especially if a pelvic exam is not done at the same time.
Your doctor gently puts a lubricated, gloved
finger into the rectum. He or she may use the other hand to press on the lower
belly or pelvic area to feel for tenderness or problems, such as enlargement,
hardness, or growths.