What is a digital rectal examination?

  • A digital rectal examination (DRE) is when a doctor checks your prostate gland.
  • They use a gloved, lubricated finger to check inside your back passage (rectum).
  • Your prostate can be felt through the wall of your rectum. The doctor will check for any lumps or hard areas.


  • Watch this video from British Medical Journal Learning for more information on the DRE.

This video is courtesy of BMJ Learning. BMJ learning are independent from Prostate Cancer Research. ©BMJ Learning All rights reserved. Information taken 27/03/2023.

Important things to know

Who can have a digital rectal examination?

You may have a digital rectal examination if you are:

  • Having problems with your prostate
  • Worried you may have prostate cancer. 

Your GP may do this test at the same time as your PSA test. Visit our page on PSA tests for more information. This link will open in a new tab.


When will I get my results?

  • When you have had the DRE, the doctor will talk to you about what they found.
  • The doctor will not be able to feel all your prostate.
  • If your doctor thinks there may be a problem, they will send you to the hospital for more tests. This might be an MRI scan. Visit our page on MRI scans (this link will open in a new tab) for more information.
  • If you have also had a PSA test, they may wait for the results before doing this. 

About this information

  • This information was published in March 2023. We will revise it in March 2024.
  • References and bibliography available on request.
  • If you want to reproduce this content, please see our Reproducing Our Content page (this link will open in a new tab).

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