The DRE – Guys, Get Over It!

Last updated: October 2022

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the dreaded DRE – digital rectal exam. While I understand that guys feel uncomfortable with the exam and that some doctors say it is not necessary, it can still help. In this quick article, I am going to throw my support behind getting a DRE and a PSA at the same time.

What is the DRE?

The DRE is a test that allows the doctor to check out the lower rectum and pelvic area for health problems. Some of these problems may include prostate cancer or abnormal masses in the anus.

If you have hemorrhoids, I think it's good to let the doctor know before you get a DRE. While the test only takes a few minutes, letting the doctor know should make the procedure more comfortable for you.

To start the exam, the doctor will insert a single, gloved finger into your anus. Most doctors will ask you to take a deep breath to help you relax as the test starts. Then the doctor will note the size of the prostate and look for bumps, texture differences, and other oddities.

To end the test, the doctor will feel along the wall of the rectum for problems as well. After a couple of minutes, it's over. Done – that's it.

The one question most people have is "Will it hurt?" If your prostate is naturally large, you may feel some discomfort during the test. Actual pain is rare. Many men can go back to their regular activities right after the test.

The elephant in the room

Why avoid the test? Ever since I can remember, I have heard family members, comedians, and just about every guy I’ve met talk about the dreaded DRE. Everyone was totally against it. It is almost like a rite of passage to reject the DRE. Why?

Could it be the idea of having something inserted into your body is horrifying to you? Is it more related to being bent over in a vulnerable position (although, actually, your doctor will usually have you lie on your side)? What about if it's a female doctor? Are you afraid of the results?

To take it a step further, what does it mean if there’s no pain at all? Therefore, if you are expecting pain and you don't have any, does that mean you liked it? C’mon now.

I tend to look at the DRE this way: I would rather have a finger inserted in my anus versus a scalpel any day. I wonder how many men would still be alive today if we were not stuck with these outdated ideas about the DRE.

But of course, I would like to take it a step further. Why not combine two simple tests?

Get both – DRE & PSA

While I’m not here to overrule your doctors, I would like to suggest getting both the DRE and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. Some doctors are moving away from both tests for whatever reason. But you have to admit the tests are fairly quick and may help catch prostate cancer at an early stage.

Granted, there is a lot of misinformation among men about the DRE and what actually happens. Please talk to your doctor about getting the DRE and/or PSA. If your doctor is against both, be sure to ask why and what they would suggest. Be sure to advocate for yourself.

As I end this article, I would like to have some “real talk” here. Let's be honest, many men will be afraid of the results. Fear is a great motivator to remain in the dark. But PC is something you do not want to mess with, and it is better to diagnose early on. This is my opinion, but I think it's better to know now and start getting healthy.

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