A digital rectal exam DRE is an exam in which a healthcare professional puts a finger into the rectum to check for problems or abnormalities in the lower abdomen and pelvis. A DRE is most often done as part of a routine physical exam in adults. It is done: to check the prostate gland for enlargement or growths in men as part of a pelvic exam to check the uterus and ovaries in women to check for problems with structures or other organs in the pelvis, such as the bladder to help find the cause of symptoms, such as blood in the stool poop , rectal bleeding, changes in bowel or bladder habits, lower abdominal pain or pelvic pain to check for hemorrhoids swollen blood vessels near the anus or rectum and growths in the rectum. There is no special preparation for a DRE. Men are often examined while lying on their side with their knees bent toward the chest. They may also be examined while standing and bending forward at the waist. Women are examined while lying on their back with their knees bent and spread apart or with their feet raised in stirrups.
How a DRE is done
Rectal examination is an internal examination of the rectum , performed by a healthcare provider. The patient undresses and is then placed in a position where the anus is accessible lying on the side, squatting on the examination table, bent over it, or lying down with feet in stirrups. If the patient bends over the examination table or the back of a chair, the physician will have him place his elbows on the table and squat down slightly. If the patient uses the supine position, the physician will ask the patient to slide down to the end of the examination table until their buttocks are positioned just beyond the end. The physician spreads the buttocks apart and will usually examine the external area anus and perineum for any abnormalities such as hemorrhoids , lumps, or rashes. Then, as the patient relaxes and bears down as if having a bowel movement , the physician slips a lubricated finger into the rectum through the anus and palpates the insides for a short time. Due to the taboos surrounding the anus and the potential for discomfort and embarrassment, the rectal exam is a common comedic device , including in episodes of Saturday Night Live ,  Impractical Jokers , Futurama , Family Guy , South Park and the movie Fletch , with M. Emmet Walsh as the general practitioner and Chevy Chase as the patient being examined.
Why a DRE is done
Professional Reference articles are designed for health professionals to use. You may find one of our health articles more useful. Rectal examination is an important part of the abdominal examination and genitourinary examination. It is important in examining for gastrointestinal disease but also for the detection of disease in other pelvic organs. It is an intimate physical examination which should be conducted correctly for detection of disease and patient comfort. Findings should be accurately and correctly recorded. This is an intimate and sometimes uncomfortable examination which is most often done when disease usually gastrointestinal or genitourinary disease is suspected or already identified. It is important in all cases to explain the reasons for the examination see 'Preparing for the examination', below and to obtain verbal consent. Examples of indications for examination include:.
Skip to Content. A digital rectal exam DRE is a test for both men and women. It allows a doctor to check the lower rectum, pelvis, and lower belly for cancer and other health problems, including:. A doctor may perform a DRE as part of a routine medical examination.