Rectal examination

Find out what a rectal examination is, how you have it and what happens afterwards.

What it is

A rectal examination is where your GP examines your back passage (rectum).

How you have it

They do this by putting a gloved finger into your back passage and feeling for any lumps or swelling.

To do a more detailed rectal examination, the doctor uses an instrument called a proctoscope. This has a lamp which shows up the rectal wall very clearly.

If the doctor sees any abnormal areas during this test, they’ll take a small sample of the abnormal area (a biopsy).

This test can be done without anaesthetic. Often the rectal examination and biopsy is done during the examination under local anaesthetic.

What happens afterwards

This biopsy sample is then examined under a microscope.

Getting your results

Your scan will be looked at by a specialist doctor and you should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks. You won't get any results at the time of the scan. 

Waiting for test results can make you anxious. Ask your doctor or nurse how long it will take to get them. Contact them if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

You might have the contact details for a specialist nurse. You can contact them for information and support if you need to. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel. 

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Contact the doctor that arranged the test if you haven't heard anything after a couple of weeks.

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