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Examination of your prostate

To examine your prostate your doctor puts a finger into your back passage (rectum). This procedure is also called a digital rectal exam (DRE).

Diagram showing prostate

Why you might have this

You might have a prostate 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 your prostate. They feel for anything unusual, such as your prostate feeling larger than it should for your age. Or feeling lumpy or hard.

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.

A digital rectal examination alone won’t be able to diagnose prostate cancer. This is because your doctor or nurse can’t feel all of your prostate. And in some cases your prostate can feel normal but might have cancer cells in it. Or they might find something unusual and it could be due to another condition.

But if your GP is concerned they’ll refer you for more tests.

Last reviewed: 
23 May 2019
  • Cancer of the prostate: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    C Parker and others,
    Annals of Oncology, 2015. Volume 26, Pages 569-577

  • Suspected cancer: recognition and referral
    The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE),  2015

Information and help

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