Examination of the prostate is a crucial screening to ensure a man’s health. It is often recommended that a man receive annual prostate exams once he reaches age 50, though the exam may be recommended earlier if the man is exhibiting symptoms of prostate problems, such as difficulty urinating. The purpose of this exam is ensure that the prostate is within normal size range (usually 2 to 4 centimeters) and shape (triangular), and that it’s consistency feels normal (firm and rubbery). Much like a woman being able to perform regular breast exams on herself, a man can perform a prostate exam on himself, but it is important this not be done instead of a professional, annual exam performed by a doctor.
The prostate examination is fairly quick process, taking only about one to two minutes. While the exam may cause a man to feel awkward, it is generally painless. The doctor should explain the process before it begins, and then inform the man before each step. The doctor will inform the patient that he’ll need to insert a finger in the patient’s rectum in order to feel the prostate, which presses against the rectum. The patient will be asked to stand with his feet apart, and lean forward, supporting himself with his elbows on the examination table. The doctor will put on a surgical glove and coat one gloved finger with lubricant. The doctor will then insert his finger into the rectum, at an angle as though he is pointing to the belly button. At this point, the patient may feel some pressure, but if he experiences pain, he should tell the doctor immediately. The doctor may need to wait a few seconds for the sphincter muscle to relax. The patient may feel some movement of the finger while the doctor feels the prostate. The doctor will then remove his finger and offer tissue or a cleansing wipe to remove the lubricant.
A man can perform a self-exam of the prostate by following similar procedures as the doctor. In a self-exam, the man inserts a finger into his own rectum. The prostate should feel similar in consistency to the webbing of skin and tissue between the thumb and the rest of the fingers. If it feels harder than this, the man should contact a doctor immediately. How the man inserts the finger is a matter of personal preference. He can wear a surgical glove if he wishes, and can use intimate lubricant. Some men prefer to perform the exam in the shower, using regular soap as the lubricant. A partner can also perform the exam, if both parties are comfortable.