The Digital Rectal Exam or the DRE
is another standard screening test for prostate
cancer. A doctor inserts a gloved and
lubricated finger into the rectum
to exam the prostate. The doctor performs this prostate
exam to search for irregularities of the prostate. A
healthy prostate gland should be soft, smooth, and symmetrical.
Irregularities include lumps, jagged areas, coarse spots,
enlargements, or firm areas.
In the early stages of prostate
cancer, however, a tumor may be nonpalpable,
meaning the tumor is not detectable by touch. Inability
to detect manually an irregularity may stem from the
tumor's being small and therefore in the early stages
of prostate cancer. A tumor may be in a place other
than the peripheral zone (which is adjacent to the rectum)
where the doctor cannot reach. Finally, if a doctor
does find an irregularity, the conclusion is not necessarily
prostate cancer, but a reason to pursue further testing.