Digital Rectal Examination of the Prostate

What is a digital rectal examination of the prostate?

A digital rectal examination (DRE) of the prostate is a clinical examination where the outline, size, and texture of the prostate are assessed, as well as the potential presence of hardness that may indicate the presence of cancer.

The role of the DRE in diagnosing prostate cancer is to evaluate the prostate for any abnormalities that might indicate the presence of cancer.


How is the digital rectal examination conducted?

The procedure involves the insertion of a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum, which allows for the palpation of the prostate.

The prostate is located just in front of the rectum, allowing direct access during the DRE. This close proximity enables the doctor to assess the size, shape, and texture of the prostate.

During the examination, the doctor feels for any abnormalities or areas of hardness in the prostate. These abnormalities might indicate prostate cancer or other prostate conditions.

By moving the finger around the prostate, the doctor can also assess the surface of the prostate. An irregularity or asymmetry might indicate the presence of cancerous cells.

The DRE also allows for the assessment of the size of the prostate. An enlarged prostate may indicate benign prostatic hyperplasia or, in some cases, prostate cancer.

Inflammation or infection of the prostate, known as prostatitis, can also be detected with a DRE, which may cause sensitivity or pain during the examination. This information helps the doctor differentiate between inflammatory conditions and potential cancer.

Is the digital rectal examination sufficient for diagnosing prostate cancer?

The digital rectal examination alone cannot definitively diagnose prostate cancer. It is usually combined with other diagnostic tests, such as Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) testing, imaging tests (e.g., ultrasound, MRI), and prostate biopsy, to establish a more accurate diagnosis. However, the DRE plays a significant role as part of a complete evaluation of the prostate and can help in the early detection of suspicious findings that require further investigation.