Surviving Your Prostate Exam / page 2 of 3

What is a Digital Rectal Exam?
If you don’t know what the phrase “digital rectal exam” means, you might be tempted to think that the “digital” part refers to some kind of MRI or computer-based scan.   No such luck, my friend.  In this case, “digital” refers to the doctor’s finger – and a “digital rectal exam” means that he will put a latex glove on, lube his finger with a lubricant, and then insert his finger into your ass in order to feel your prostate.  The doctor will first ask you to lie down on your side, and then he will tell you to “relax”.  He then inserts his finger, and feels around.    What the doctor is trying to do is detect whether the prostate feels like a hard lump.  If it does, then you will need more tests – as the “digital rectal exam” (DRE) is simply a first-level type test.   In addition to feeling your prostate, the doctor doing the DRE might also be able to tell if you have hemorrhoids or other growths (which could be a sign of colorectal cancer).  Typically, if the doctor finds anything during the DRE, he will want to pursue the next level of testing – like either a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy.


The first time you undergo a DRE is the worst.  I remember that when I first had one of these exams, immediately beforehand I was laughing and joking with the nurse who weighed me, and took my blood pressure.  [Remember – I had no idea that this test was coming.]   After the DRE (and the rest of the doctor’s exam), the doctor left the examination room and told the nurse I needed a tetanus shot … and to please administer one to me.   When the nurse came in, I guess I had the look of someone who had been the victim of a sexual assault or something – because the difference in my demeanor and expression was so drastic that she started laughing at me, and told me I looked like I had been hit by a bus or something.  Now I usually enjoy joking around – but I was just a wreck after that exam.   When the doctor had administered the test, I remember squirming around all over the place a bunch.   He told me again to relax, and I remember thinking to myself “Yeah you try to relax, Mister, with a finger in your ass”.   I suppose if I had been mentally prepared for the DRE that I would have been in better shape, and able to relax – but no such luck.  I suppose the blessing was that this test was over fairly quickly.   Once he was able to feel what he needed to feel, his finger was out in no time.   Whole thing took maybe fifteen to twenty seconds, after I stopped squirming.   It may be comforting to you to know that going through your second and subsequent DREs is nowhere near as traumatic or uncomfortable as the very first time – it is much easier because you know what he is going to do, you know it is not going to hurt, and you know it will be over very quickly.  It is much easier to “relax” after your first DRE – so try not to stress over it too much.

Avatar of Greg Smith
About the Author

Midlife Bachelor chronicles lifestyle, dating, and relationship experiences and advice to avoid a midlife crisis. Readers like you are often beyond young adulthood in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s that want to understand how dating, sex, relationships, and love fit in with our lifestyles.