A digital (finger) rectal examination checks for abnormalities of organs or other structures in the pelvis and lower abdomen. During a digital rectal exam, a doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger of one hand into the rectum and may use the other hand to press on the lower abdomen or pelvic area.
The exam is commonly done to check the prostate gland in men and the uterus and ovaries in women. The doctor can also feel other structures during the exam.
A digital rectal exam is routinely done for men as part of a complete physical exam and for women as part of a regular gynecological exam (usually done at the time of a Pap test). The exam may also be done to help identify the cause of symptoms such as rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, abdominal or pelvic pain, a change in bowel habits, or urinary problems in men.