"The evidence suggests that in most cases, it is time to abandon the digital rectal exam (DRE)," said Ryan Terlecki, M.D., a Wake Forest Baptist urologist who recently published an article on the topic in Current Medical Research and Opinion. "Our findings will likely be welcomed by patients and doctors alike."
Terlecki said the DRE, referred to by some urologists as a "clinical relic," subjects a large number of men to invasive, potentially uncomfortable examinations for relatively minimal gain. In addition, it may deter some men from undergoing any test for prostate cancer.
The issue Terlecki's team explored was whether the DRE is needed when another more accurate test that measures prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood is available. PSA is a protein that is often elevated in men with prostate cancer.
"Many practitioners continue to perform DRE in attempts to identify men with aggressive prostate cancer who could die from the disease," said Terlecki. "In the era of PSA testing, we wanted to explore whether it's time to abandon the digital exam."