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Digital Rectal Exam For Rectal Analysis

Digital Rectal Examination is a relatively simple test to check the prostate gland. Prostate is an internal organ which lies in front of the rectum. This examination is done for detection of prostate conditions where the examiner puts a lubricated gloved finger of one hand into the rectum. A digital Rectal Exam is also performed for women as a part of gynaecological examination to check uterus and ovaries. A healthy prostate gland is usually soft, smooth and symmetrical. In case if there are irregularities in the same, some lumps, jagged areas, enlargements etc may be found.  

Relevance of Digital Rectal Exam 

A Digital Rectal Examination is usually done for the detection of few conditions like rectal bleeding, belly or pelvic pain, change in urination and bowel habits. Digital Rectal Exam helps to check any enlargement in the prostate gland, tumor in the prostate gland etc. It also helps finding hemorrhoids such as cancer in the rectum. As Digital Rectal Exam alone can’t find haemorrhoids, a sigmoidoscopy may also be required to detect and diagnose internal haemorrhoids. Along with the Digital Rectal Exam, a PSA test is also performed as part of the screening test for prostate cancer. It is not necessary that the irregularities found in the Digital Rectal Exam and the PSA test is resulted in prostate cancer. If the PSA level is low some other tests may be performed to detect the prostate cancer. Abdominal Ultrasound, Magnetic resonance Imaging, Computerized Tomography are the other methods performed. 

Procedure of the Digital Rectal Examination is uncomfortable but not painful. Pain occurs in conditions in case if the prostate is reddened due to a condition called prostatitis. Prostatitis is a fleeting irritation of the prostate gland which typically causes the prostate to swell and become tender on the examination. Small amount of bleeding may also happen if the patient is having haemorrhoids or other rectal problems. A main disadvantage of this procedure is that, the doctor or the examiner will be able to feel only the back line of the prostate and hence abnormalities present in the middle or other inner parts of the prostate may not be known. If any irregularities are reported, a biopsy may be required for the confirmation of the prostate cancer. Biopsy is a procedure where small tissues from the prostate gland is removed and examined through the microscope.  

Usage of Digital Rectal Examination

This examination is used for diagnoses of various conditions such as, 

  • Rectal and other kinds of tumours  
  • Prostatic disorders and benign prostatic hyperplasia;  
  • Appendicitis or other abdomen trouble  
  • Faecal incontinence, neurological diseases, or traumatic spinal cord injuries  
  • Gynaecological palpations  
  • Haemorrhoids  

Digital Rectal Exam is also combined with a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) that is important for the diagnosis of gastrointestinal bleeding. Though Digital Rectal Exam is an insufficient screening for colorectal cancer, it is an integral part of a general examination for several types of cancers or other rectal diseases.