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Digital rectal examination for prostate problems

A digital rectal examination, or DRE, is where a doctor wearing lubricated medical gloves inserts a finger into a man's rectum to test for prostate problems.

This simple examination is used to assess the prostate gland and to help screen for prostate cancer.

The doctor feels the prostate for hard, lumpy or abnormal areas. The examination takes only a few minutes to complete.

The goal is to detect the cancer in its early stages, when treatment is most successful.

You may feel slight, momentary discomfort during the examination. The procedure does not cause significant pain or any damage to the prostate.

Many men will find having a rectal examination embarrassing, and if their usual doctor is female, they may request that it is done by a male doctor.

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Who should get a digital rectal examination?

Any man who is concerned about prostate-related problems should be offered a digital rectal examination to help make a diagnosis and guide treatment recommendations.

There is no formal screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK. The NHS says until there is clear evidence to show that a national screening programme brings more benefit than harm, it will not be offering prostate cancer screening for men without symptoms of prostate cancer.

If men are concerned that they may have prostate cancer, they should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of testing.

What happens after the digital rectal examination?

You may continue with your normal activities. Your doctor will discuss the examination results with you and discuss the next steps if he or she detects a suspicious lump or area during the examination.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 24, 2016

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