A digital rectal exam is an examination of the lower rectum. The health care provider uses a gloved, lubricated finger to check for any abnormal findings.
How the Test is Performed
The provider will first look at the outside of the anus for
How to Prepare for the Test
For the test, the provider will ask you to:
- Try to relax
- Take a deep breath during the insertion of the finger into your rectum
How the Test will Feel
You may feel mild discomfort during this test.
Why the Test is Performed
This test is performed for many reasons. It may be done:
- As part of a routine yearly physical exam in both men and women
- When your provider suspects you are bleeding somewhere in your digestive tract
- When men are having symptoms that suggest the
prostate is enlargedor you may have a prostate infection
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
A normal finding means the provider did not detect any problem during the exam. However, this test does not rule out all problems.
What Abnormal Results Mean
An abnormal result may be due to:
- A prostate problem, such as an
enlarged prostate gland, prostate infection, or prostate cancer
- Bleeding anywhere in the digestive tract
- Cancer of the rectum or colon
Small split or tearin the thin moist tissue lining of the anus (called anal fissure)
abscess, when pus collects in the area of the anus and rectum Hemorrhoids, swollen veins in the anus or lower part of the rectum
Abdelnaby A, Downs MJ. Diseases of the anorectum. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 129.
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.
Loeb S, Eastham JA. Diagnosis and staging of prostate cancer. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Partin AW, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 111.
Review Date: 16/09/2019
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright ©2019 A.D.A.M., Inc., as modified by University of California San Francisco. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Information developed by A.D.A.M., Inc. regarding tests and test results may not directly correspond with information provided by UCSF Health. Please discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.