The prostate exam

A prostate exam typically includes a digital rectal exam (DRE), which allows the doctor to physically feel the prostate gland to determine if it is enlarged, abnormally hard, or if there are any lumps or other irregularities.

A DRE is part of the prostate cancer screening process, which also usually includes a PSA test.

A DRE is important because some men with prostate cancer may not have an abnormal PSA level. And some men with prostate cancer may have a normal DRE because small or early cancers are difficult for a doctor to feel.

While neither of these tests are 100% accurate, they are often a first step to help determine if a man has prostate cancer. Using a DRE alone is less accurate than PSA testing for detecting prostate cancer.

What happens during a DRE?

The doctor will put on gloves and add a lubricant. The man may be asked to bend over the examination table or lie on his side with his knees drawn up into his chest.

The doctor will then insert a gloved finger into the man’s rectum to feel the prostate gland. While this rectal examination is not very pleasant for a man, it is usually very brief.

A DRE is typically performed along with a PSA test as part of the screening process for prostate cancer. However, when a man has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, a DRE may also be performed during consultations with doctors, or during follow-up visits after treatment for prostate cancer.

Even if a man has had his prostate gland surgically removed, his doctor will still perform a DRE during follow up visits.

Updated 9/12

Always discuss everything you read on this web site with a qualified medical professional.

Next: Prostate cancer diagnosis

Disease 101
What is prostate cancer?
What are the causes?
PSA testing
Gleason score
Advanced cancer
Return from prostate exam to homepage

Search Our Site

Custom Search


American Urological Association. The Management of Localized Prostate Cancer. Accessed September 1, 2008.

The American Cancer Society. Prostate Cancer. Accessed October 28, 2010.

Search Our Site

Custom Search


This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.