Using the Digital Prostate Exam to Screen for Cancer

Author: Brian Hildebrandt, Last Updated: July 26, 2019

After the age of 40, it’s generally recommended your doctor perform a digital prostate exam to check for signs of prostate cancer.

Alongside your PSA test, it can help towards an early diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Now, I can imagine what you’re thinking. There’s no f-ing way I’m letting a doctor stick his finger where the sun don’t shine!

Fair enough, I agree it’s an uncomfortable procedure.

But the benefits of living a long happy life far outweigh dying early and leaving your wife and children alone. Don’t they?

You have a 1 in 6 chance of developing prostate cancer in your life time. It’s important you treat this seriously.

Prostate Exam Procedure

In a nut shell, a digital exam involves your doctor putting a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum, about 1.5 inches, while checking for abnormalities in;

1. Size

2. Shape

3. Hardness

Rendering of digital prostate exam being performed.

The procedure may feel uncomfortable or painful as the doctor needs to press firmly in order to get an accurate feeling of what’s going on.

If there’s any swelling or inflammation from an enlarged prostate or prostatitis it may especially be noticable.

You may also feel the urgency to urinate, as the prostate gland governs the flow of urine from the bladder to the urethra.

If you have a history of hemorrhoids or anal fissures, the digital test may result in temporary bleeding.

This is normally an unusual occurance.

Digital Rectal Exam as a Diagnostic Tool

The digital exam is also useful in diagnosis for;

1. Colon cancer

2. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH, or enlarged prostate)

3. Prostatitis

4. Hemorrhoids

5. Prior to colonoscopy and proctoscopy.

Thankfully the digital rectal exam will be finished in 60 seconds and you can go about your business, happy in the thought you’ve dodged another bullet.


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