This test is performed for various reasons. It is sometimes done as part of a routine yearly physical examination in both men and women.
In men, the test is used to examine the prostate, looking for abnormal enlargement or other signs of prostate cancer.
In women, a digital rectal exam may be performed during a routine gynecologic examination.
A digital rectal exam is also done to collect stool for testing for fecal occult (hidden) blood as part of screening for colorectal cancer.
This procedure is also done before other tests, such as a colonoscopy, to make sure nothing is blocking the rectum before inserting an instrument.