A digital rectal exam is an exam of the lower rectum. The health care provider uses a gloved, lubricated finger to check for any abnormal findings.
The provider will first look at the outside of the anus for hemorrhoids or fissures. Then the provider will put on a 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 provider will ask you to:
You may feel mild discomfort during this test.
This test can be done for several 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 cancer of the rectum or colon.
A normal finding means the 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:
Coates WC. Anorectal procedures. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 45.
Downs JM, Kulow B. Anal diseases. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 129.
Loeb S, Eastham JA. Diagnosis and staging of prostate cancer. In: Partin AW, Dmochowski RR, Kavoussi LR, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh-Wein Urology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 152.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 11/4/2021
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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