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Digital Rectal Exam for Men 

A digital rectal exam is type of prostate cancer screening for men. 

A digital rectal exam is performed so that a doctor can feel a man’s prostate gland and determine if there are any lumps or abnormalities present. The prostate is a walnut-sized organ that supplies some of the semen released during male ejaculation and is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum.  

Conditions Treated 

In general, a digital rectal exam for men is part of a series of tests performed as prostate cancer screening. It's important to note that a digital rectal exam alone cannot provide enough information to diagnose cancer and may be used a part of a diagnostic process for other conditions, such as: 

  • An enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) 
  • Prostatitis  
  • Rectal cancer 
  • Prostate infections 
  • Fecal incontinence  
  • Hemorrhoids  
  • Rectal bleeding 

Stool samples can also be collected during a digital rectal exam, which can be used to help diagnose colon cancer. 

Procedure Details 

During a digital rectal exam, your doctor will lubricate his or her gloved finger with a lubricating jelly and insert their finger in your anus. The prostate gland is then examined with firm pressure. The doctor feels for enlargement, lumps, hard spots, tenderness or other abnormalities in the tissue. 

What to Expect 

A digital rectal exam can be performed as part of a regular physical examination. It may also be paired with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test for prostate cancer screening.  

During the procedure, you may feel the need to urinate or feel pain, but discomfort is minor and brief. If you have hemorrhoids or any anal tissue abnormalities, you may experience some bleeding.  

Effectiveness 

Digital rectal exams are generally effective at helping your doctor feel for abnormalities or prostate enlargement, but this exam alone doesn’t provide precise details about the condition of the prostate. For this reason, a diagnosis is often only confirmed after several other tests or examinations have been performed.  

At Tampa General Hospital, our expert urologists perform digital rectal exams for men to ensure our patients receive world-class care that is specific to their individual needs.