Doctors use the Digital Rectal exam as a relatively simple test to check the prostate. As prostate in an internal organ, it’s not possible for the doctor to see it from outside. It lies in front of the rectum and the doctors can see it by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum.
Who should get a Digital Rectal Exam?
For most men at an average risk screening is started at the age of 50. However men with a family history of prostate cancer can start their test at an early age say from the age of 40, with the schedule of follow up test to be decided individually.
What happens during Digital Rectal Exam?
The doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum and feels the prostate for hard, lumpy or abnormal areas. The test takes only a few minutes.
The patient feels slight discomfort during the test, with no significant pain and damage to the prostate.
What happens after the Digital Rectal Exam?
The patient may go about with his normal activities. Only if any kind of lump or abnormality is detected during the examination, or if the patient’s PSA level is elevated, he may be asked to go for an Ultrasound guided Biopsy.
The ‘Digital Rectal Exam’ is an examination of the lower rectum. The doctors first examine the outside of the anus for ‘hemorrhoids or fissures’. Inside the rectum a latex glove and lubricated finger is inserted.
The patient is asked to relax himself by taking deep breath during the insertion of the finger into the rectum by the doctor.
Why the test is performed? :
The test is performed by doctors not only to test any kind of abnormalities in the prostate gland but also to make sure that nothing is blocking the rectum before inserting any instrument; if at all surgery is required to remove the prostate cancer cells.
Results of the test:
A normal result means the doctor has not detected any problem during the test. An abnormal result may be due to:
- A prostate problem such as prostate enlargement or prostate cancer.
- Bleeding in gastrointestinal tract.
- Tumor of rectum
- Other problems within the rectum.
This is first preliminary test for prostate cancer, but before the test doctors always discuss the benefit and risk factors.