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Movember: What’s a Digital Rectal Exam Like?

Unpleasant but nonetheless useful for patients, digital rectal examination is a routine examination often performed to screen for prostate or rectal cancer in men. How is it performed and in what cases is it recommended?

The digital rectal examination is a clinical examination of reference that makes it possible to look for possible problems or disorders in the lower part of the abdomen and the pelvis, an area of ​​the body that is difficult to assess with an external investigation. This can be done during a simple medical consultation to complete the diagnosis of pathologies or infection. But in the vast majority of cases, finding prostate cancer is the first step. This preventive examination is often feared by patients when it affects the intimate. It is for this reason that practitioners must explain to their patient the reasons that lead them to carry out this type of examination, the abnormalities sought, and finally secure their consent before the intervention.

How is a digital rectal examination performed?

This examination is quick and does not require local anesthesia, as it is mostly painless. To begin, the doctor gently inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into the inner wall of the anus and rectum. This can be done in different positions depending on the specialist consulted. The patient can either lie on his back with his legs bent, or stand and lean forward, or even on his side, in an embryonic position. In men, this enables the doctor to determine the size of the prostate, thus detecting hard areas, masses or lesions. And thus to detect, for example, a benign hypertrophy or a possible prostate cancer. In the event of an anomaly, the doctor may prescribe additional examinations, such as a colonoscopy, a biopsy, or even an ultrasound or a scanner.

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What reasons might lead your doctor to perform this examination?

Rectal examination is recommended from the age of 50 for men who want to be screened for prostate cancer, often together with a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), although it is not sufficiently reliable. Generally, in both men and women, this examination can be performed in case of abdominal or pelvic pain. And also in case of abnormal bleeding in the halls or in the anus, problems to urinate or to determine the condition and extent of hemorrhoidal swelling. In addition, a rectal examination can be performed to check the presence of blood on the glove, especially within the framework of the screening for cancer of the rectum or colon. In women, it is also used to examine the internal organs, such as the ovaries or the cervix. Finally, midwives can use it during the rehabilitation of the perineum.

You may also be interested in:

⋙ How to reduce the volume of the prostate?

⋙ How is colon cancer treated?

⋙ Hemorrhoids: causes, symptoms, treatment, prevention

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