GBMC offers multiple Colon Cancer screenings including:
Click to learn the specifics of each screening
   The Diagnosis, Staging and Treatment for Colorectal Cancer

Digital Rectal Exam

As Part of a Physical for Men or Gynecological Exam for Women
Checks for growths or abnormalities in the rectum.
No Sedation
You’ll be awake and can go back to work afterwards.
Easily available in primary care offices.
No Preparation
No preparation required.

A digital rectal examination (DRE) is performed to check for problems with organs or other structures in the pelvis and lower belly, including the colon and rectum. During a DRE, your doctor uses a lubricated, gloved finger of one hand to examine the inside of the rectum. A DRE is used in conjunction with other examinations to diagnose colorectal cancer.

The Prep:

No preparation is required for a digital rectal exam. If you currently have hemorrhoids, remind your doctor so that he or she can try to avoid irritating them.

The Procedure:

The procedure is performed in your doctor’s examination room. You will need to remove your clothes from the waist down, and will be given a gown to wear for your privacy. A male patient is often examined in the standing position, bending forward at the waist, or can be examined lying on his side on the exam table with his knees bent up toward his chest. A female patient is commonly examined while lying on her back on the examination table with her feet raised in stirrups.

Your doctor will gently put a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum, and may use his or her other hand to press on the lower belly or pelvic area to feel for tenderness, enlargement, hardness or growths within the abdominal cavity.


Recovery after a digital rectal examination is very minimal. Once you change back into your clothes, you are ready to leave the examination room and return to your daily activities.


If your doctor feels an abnormality in your abdomen or rectum, he or she may order additional tests to determine the cause of the abnormality. You will hear from your doctor within a week of your procedure, at which time make sure to discuss a follow-up plan with your gastroenterologist and primary care doctor if need be.


It is recommended that everyone screen regularly between the ages of 50 and 75. If no abnormalities are found during your digital rectal exam, and you have no other risk factors, your doctor will tell you when you will need another exam. You may need one sooner if abnormalities are found. Your doctor will help you decide which screening plan is right for you and if you should continue screening past the age of 75.

  • Pros
  • Cons
  • Possible Harms

  • No preparation required
  • Very short recovery period

  • Can be unpleasant and invasive
  • Cannot be used by itself to diagnose cancer; must be used in conjunction with another procedure

  • A small amount of bleeding from the rectum may occur after the examination.
  • In rare cases, patients have felt lightheaded or faint caused by vasovagal syncope (more common in patients examined when standing).

To schedule your digital rectum examination today, please call: