Disclaimer | About this site | Home

Home | MedNews | Blog | FoodNews | Books    

Click  for latest stories on our home page

Rectal Exam to Detect Prostate Cancer

Location of the Prostate. Male reproductive system. From: The Atlas of the Human Body, The American Medical Association, 1998.

Digital rectal exam (DRE)

A urologist examines the prostate by putting a lubricated, gloved finger inside the rectum and feeling (palpating) the prostate through the rectal wall. This is called digital rectal exam (DRE).

It takes only a couple of minutes and should not be painful. If it feels uncomfortable, say so. The more experienced the urologist, the more he can tell from a rectal exam.

The rectal exam should be done after a PSA test. There's some chance that a rectal exam before a PSA test may elevate the PSA and create a false positive result.

Why do you need this test when the PSA blood test is available? Why not rely on the PSA test alone?

About 25 per cent of men who have prostate cancer have a low PSA. So the rectal exam is an essential follow up to PSA test.

The purpose of digital exam is to feel for "suspicious" places on the prostate.

The prostate has a base, an apex, an anterior, a posterior and two lateral surfaces. The base (the broad end) touches the lower surface of the bladder. The apex points downward and is in contact with the fibrous tissue network between the skin and the underlying structure of muscle and bone of the urogenital diaphragm.

Urologists divide the prostate into zones -- the transition zone, central zone and peripheral zone. The peripheral zone can be felt through the rectum, especially when enlarged.

Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy is the abnormal enlargement of non-cancerous cells within the transition zone of the prostate.

Most prostate cancer occurs in the peripheral zone

Fortunately, this is the area most likely to be felt during a rectal exam. Nonetheless, as you can see from the illustration at the top of this page, the front and top parts of the prostate cannot be felt by DRE. Prostate cancer may occur there, and some prostate cancer in the peripheral zonealso is not detectable by feel. So the PSA test is essential too. Find out more about DRE from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Related news

Find Life-Threatening Prostate Cancer by Measuring PSA Velocity During "Window of Curability" Nov 1, 2006.

This page made by J. Strax December 26, 2006. PAge last modified December 26, 2008.


If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer:

  • Take time for second and third opinions about your biopsy Gleason score and any markers of aggressive disease
    • your staging
    • your treatment options
  • Compare long term survival rates and side effects of various treatment options.
  • Make your decisions based on evidence and your personal values and goals.



General Disclaimer: PSA Rising is designed for informational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. News and information provided through PSA Rising should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your healthcare provider.

Hon Code Seal
We comply with the HONcode standard for health trustworthy information:
verify here

© 1997-2009 PSA RisingWear blue Prostate Cancer Awareness ribbon!