Do you need a digital rectal exam of your prostate? If you are a man over 50, the simple answer is, “yes”. However, if you have an African American male or have an immediate family member who has had prostate cancer, you may need to have a screening earlier.

Digital Rectal Exam

The most frequently used exam for revealing the health of the prostate is a digital rectal exam. In the United States, the healthcare provider must ask the patient if he wants a digital rectal exam performed prior to completing one. Don’t say no. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. The only cancer resulting in a higher percentage of death is lung cancer. It is estimated that 1 in 7 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. Wouldn’t a couple of minute procedure be easier to deal with than chemotherapy or eventual death?

What is Involved in a Digital Rectal Exam?

When you are at your doctor’s office performing a physical, your doctor will ask if you want a prostate exam. Say yes. At that point, the doctor will insert a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to evaluate the health of your prostate. It will not be painful unless is it enlarged and then you might feel some pressure.

What is Your Doctor Looking for in a Digital Rectal Exam?

Your doctor will be feeling for abnormalities. Is the prostate unusually enlarged? Are there hard spots? Is there a soft spot? While your doctor will not be able to confirm a cancer diagnosis through a digital rectal exam, he will be able to determine if you need a prostate biopsy performed.

What Happens After the Exam?

After the exam, you could experience some mild bleeding. If you have hemorrhoids or anal fissures, you might experience more bleeding. Prior to the exam, you should alert your doctor if you have either of these medical concerns as the exam could exasperate the issue. Unless your doctor feels that you have an issue, this is the end of the test. If your doctor would happen to have a concern, he could take a blood sample to check for PSA produced by the prostate gland.

In Conclusion

While a digital rectal exam cannot diagnose cancer, having the test can identify cancer prior to symptoms beginning. The earlier a diagnosis of cancer is given; the sooner treatment can begin and the better the treatment outcomes are for the cancer survivor.