What is a Digital Rectal Exam?

Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN
Last Modified: June 16, 2002

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
What is a Digital Rectal Exam?  

Answer

Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN, OncoLink's Clinical Trials Coordinator, responds:

Digital rectal exam is a technique used by physicians to assess rectal function, feel for rectal tumors or hemorrhoids, and check for blood in the stool. The physician inserts a finger into the patients' rectum and is able to feel the first few inches of the rectal tissue. By obtaining a small amount of stool, the fecal occult blood test can then be used to check for blood in the stool. In men, this test can also evaluate the prostate gland.