Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)
How It Feels
Men may feel some discomfort or pain
during a digital rectal exam (DRE). Your doctor must press firmly
on the prostate to feel for problems. This pressure may make you feel the need
to urinate. The examination may be painful if the prostate gland is swollen or
Most women do not find a DRE painful. You may feel some
pressure or discomfort when your doctor presses on your belly to
feel the internal organs.
People with hemorrhoids, breaks in the
skin around the
anal fissures), or other anal sores may find a DRE
more painful than people without these problems.
A small amount of bleeding from the rectum may
occur after an examination, especially if hemorrhoids or anal fissures are
In rare cases, you may feel lightheaded and faint. This
feeling is called
vasovagal syncope and is caused by fear or pain when
your doctor puts a finger into the rectum. Vasovagal syncope is
more likely to happen if you are standing up.
A digital (finger) rectal examination is
done to check for problems of 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
Digital rectal exam
No problems such
as organ enlargements or growths are felt.
Problems such as
organ enlargements or growths are felt.
For men, the
prostate gland may be enlarged. This may mean
benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) or inflammation of
the prostate gland (prostatitis). Tumors are
For women, growths
such as tumors of the
cervix, uterus, or
ovaries are felt.
Growths such as
hemorrhoids, polyps, tumors, or
abscesses may be found in the lower rectum. Breaks in
the skin around the anus (anal fissures) may be found. Problems
of the bladder may also be felt.
What Affects the Test
Hemorrhoids or anal fissures may
cause discomfort during a digital rectal exam.
What To Think About
- If a digital rectal exam (DRE) is being done to
screen for prostate cancer, the examination may be combined with a blood test
for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The two tests are often done together to
check for prostate cancer. To learn more, see the topic
Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA).
tests may need to be done after a DRE if problems are suspected, including colon cancer. You may need a test
for blood in the stool or a visual examination of the anus, rectum, or colon
(anoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy).
transrectal ultrasound and a prostate
biopsy may be done if the DRE or PSA test shows that
prostate cancer may be present.