Digital rectal exam is a test procedure performed to check for problems with organs and various other structures in your pelvic region and lower belly. This screening procedure helps to detect prostate and rectal cancer. Often, this test is referred to as prostate or rectal exam.
During the test procedure, your practitioner gently places a lubricated gloved finger into the rectum.
Practitioner uses another hand to press on the pelvic region or the lower belly.
Digital rectal exam is a part of men’s complete physical exam to test prostate gland. For women, the procedure is done as a part of gynecological problems to check the ovaries and uterus.
Why digital rectal exam is done?
- It checks for the growth or enlargement of the prostate gland. A tumor detected in the prostate can be felt as a hard lump. This test is performed as an element of regular examination to check for the symptoms like change in urination.
- It checks the problems related to a woman’s reproductive system, such as ovaries and uterus. Often, this procedure is performed during regular pelvic exam or Pap test. Also, it checks for the symptoms like vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain.
- A stool sample is collected to check for blood in the stool.
- This test procedure helps to recognize the cause of situations like rectal bleeding, pelvic or belly pain, change in urine, or changes in bowel habits.
- It checks the growth of cancer or hemorrhoids in the rectum.
How you feel during the test?
Men can feel pain or slight discomfort during rectal digital exam. Your practitioner puts some pressure on the prostate to feel the problems. The pressure makes you feel the desire to urinate. You will have more pain if your prostate gland is irritated or swollen.
Women who have hemorrhoids, fractures in the skin area around the anus or some other anal sores find digital rectal exam as more painful.
Are there any risks with digital rectal exam?
After the test is completed, some people experience bleeding from the rectum, particularly if anal fissures or hemorrhoids are present. Occasionally, you feel fainting and lightheadedness. It is called as vasovagal syncope and is due to the pain or fear when the practitioner places his finger into the rectum.
If your practitioner finds any abnormality, then he recommends further testing. For example, for prostate problems, you need protein-specific antigen blood test, biopsy or transrectal ultrasound of prostate.