Reasons, Preparation and Procedure For Conducting a Digital Rectal Examination

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Digital Rectal Examination

DRE or digital rectal examination is a procedure conducted to examine the health of the internal organs in the lower abdominal and pelvic region. Self-conducted digital rectal exam might not be a good idea, as it is only a professional medical examiner who can determine if there is any problem with the organs in the area.

Reason Why It is Conducted

This examination is useful in physically testing whether the urinary and reproductive organs in the pelvic area are in good shape.

This helps in early detection of internal tumors and lesions, as well as in ascertaining if symptoms like fecal bleeding, abnormal vaginal discharge, painful urination, bowel irregularities and pelvic pains are being caused by problems concerning any internal organ. Digital rectal exam for prostate cancer is a popular means of detecting this condition at an early stage. Any abnormal growth in the shape or size of the prostate gland can be easily detected by a trained medical practitioner through this physical examination. If a hard growth on the prostate is found during the examination, a biopsy is conducted to determine if the tumor is malignant or benign. In addition, DRE is also an effective means of checking if the bladder, uterus and the ovaries are in proper shape.


A digital rectal examination is not as painful as it sounds. In fact, feeling anxious about the examination inadvertently causes the muscles in the rectal area to contract and causes unnecessary discomfort. If you have ulcers, lesions or hemorrhoids around the anal aperture, the doctor will tend to them first before proceeding to examine the internal organs. If you are suffering from internal hemorrhoids, you should inform your doctor prior to the exam about the same so that s/he may take adequate measures to prevent accidental bleeding and pain. Pregnant women should also consult their pediatrician before going in for such an examination.


DRE is a fairly simple process in which the doctor inserts a finger into the rectum through the anal opening and examines the organs in the pelvic cavity physically to detect abnormalities. The doctor puts on sterilized gloves and lubricates his finger as well as the anal passage in order to make the process smooth and painless. Men should bend forwards in a standing posture to reduce the feeling of discomfort, while women should lie on a table face downwards with their feet supported by raised stirrups for rectovaginal investigation. The doctor also gently presses the lower pelvic area with the other hand in order to ease the process.