Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)

DRE allows your doctor to feel for unusual masses

A digital rectal examination (DRE) is when a doctor uses a gloved, lubricated finger gently inserted into the lower portion of the rectum to feel for unusual growths or masses. A DRE is sometimes done during a routine pelvic exam for women or as part of a prostate cancer screening for men.

What to expect during a digital rectal exam

The exam only takes a few minutes. Your doctor will talk to you before the exam, telling you what to expect as the exam begins. You may also be advised to breathe in as the finger is inserted, and try to relax. Getting a DRE may be slightly uncomfortable but it is not painful.

Why digital rectal exams are done and what the results mean

In addition to checking for a swollen prostate, which in some cases may indicate a tumor, DREs are performed to check for any number of conditions, such as:

A doctor may also do a DRE to check for blood in your stool and suspected bleeding in your digestive tract.

A DRE alone is not always enough to diagnose a condition. If your doctor does find something suspicious, additional tests such as ultrasound, barium enema or colonoscopy may be ordered, depending on your doctor’s analysis of the findings of the DRE.