Digital Rectal Exam

Author: Courtney Misher, MPH, BS R.T.(T)
Last Reviewed: August 15, 2022

A digital rectal exam (DRE) is a test used to examine the lower rectum, prostate, pelvis, and lower belly to check for cancer. It can also be used if you are having bleeding or a change in your bowel or urine habits.

How do I prepare for the exam?

You do not need to do anything to prepare for this exam. If you have tears or injury to the anal area, anal fissures, or hemorrhoids you should let your provider know before the exam.

How is the exam done?

Your primary care doctor or a gynecologist will likely do the DRE. You will stand and bend at your waist or lie on your side on the exam table. Your provider will gently insert their gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum. They will feel for bumps, soft or hard spots, or anything that may not feel normal.

You may feel pressure, but it should not hurt. You may feel like you need to urinate (void or pee). It should only take a few minutes. If your provider feels anything abnormal, they may do more testing.

What should I expect after the test?

You can return to your normal activities right away. You may have some light bleeding especially if you have a history of hemorrhoids or anal fissures. If you have more than a small amount of bleeding, you should call your care provider.

Digital Rectal Exam (DRE). Cancer.Net. (2020, November 19). Retrieved August 12, 2022, from

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