Examination of your back passage

An examination of your back passage (rectum) involves your doctor feeling inside your rectum using their finger. This procedure is also called a digital rectal exam (DRE). You might have a DRE if you have symptoms of anal cancer. 

Why you might have a digital rectal exam (DRE)?

You might have a rectal examination to help work out the cause of your symptoms.

What happens before the examination?

It’s normal to feel a bit anxious about this test and it might be uncomfortable. But it usually only takes a few minutes and you shouldn’t feel any pain. Tell your doctor if you do.

You can ask for a man or woman doctor if you’d prefer. Or you can have someone else in the room, such as a family member.

During the examination

The doctor or nurse will ask you to take off your clothes on your lower half, including underwear.

You’ll lie on your left hand side, with your knee’s brought up towards your chest.

The doctor or nurse will put on gloves and then put lubricating gel on their finger. They will then put their finger inside your back passage and feel for anything unusual, such as lumps.

What happens after

Once it’s done you can get up and get dressed. You’ll be able to leave as soon as you’re ready.

If your doctor or nurse finds anything unusual they will refer you for further tests to examine your anus and back passage (rectum). 

Last reviewed: 
30 Apr 2019
  • Anal cancer: ESMO-ESSO-ESTRO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up 
    R. Glynne-Jones and others
    Annals of Oncology 2014. Volume 25, Pages iii10-iii20

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