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How Often do I Need to get a Prostate Exam?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A prostate exam is a common examination that is used to check on the current condition of the prostate. As men age, the need to monitor prostate health becomes more of a necessity. Unfortunately, many men neglect the task of having periodic examinations of the prostate. Often, this is due to a misunderstanding about the mechanics of the exam, as well as a lack of information about prostate cancer and what the disease can do if left unchecked.

Prostate exams do not require much, other than a visit to the family physician or urologist. The exam takes place in the doctor’s office, and involves nothing more than a lubricant and a rubber glove. The physician dons the glove, lubricates the index finger, and inserts the finger into the anus. The prostate can be easily examined through the thin walls of the rectum, allowing the physician to check for growths, texture, and any other abnormalities. Generally, the examination takes only a moment or two and is relatively painless.

While the risk of prostate cancer is relatively low prior to age forty, many physicians recommend a prostate exam every few years for men in their twenties and thirties. The frequency may increase to annual or biannual examinations if there is a history of prostate cancer or related issues in the immediate family, such as a brother, father, or grandfather. In addition, African-American men are thought to have a higher risk of developing prostate problems. The presence of risk factors such as heredity or race often prompts physicians to recommend more frequent testing for individual patients.

After age forty, many physicians recommend an annual prostate exam as part of the yearly checkup. Some medical associations will recommend an annual exam after age 45, assuming there are no extenuating circumstances. However, just about every reliable medical source agrees that after the age of 45, all men should have an annual exam.

Failure to have a prostate exam on a regular basis can lead to major health issues. In the event that prostate cancer is developed and not caught in the early stages, it is possible to experience decreased urinary functions, including a negative impact on sexual desire and performance. At worst, prostate cancer can spread to other parts of the body and lead to death. Taking a few moments each year to submit to a prostate exam can do a great deal to maintain a comfortable level of health and living, and also allow for any problems to be corrected before there is the chance for permanent damage.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including The Health Board, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon335307 — On May 19, 2013

What do you mean it does not hurt? I had one and it felt like the way you would pull an apple off the tree. It felt like his entire hand was up in my butt. Don't let anybody tell you it's not painful. It's just one of those things that is necessary in a man's life.

By anon288372 — On Aug 29, 2012

It is very important to have a complete genital and rectal/prostate exam at every physical exam. I just turned 18 last month, and my doctor told me this at my pre-college physical exam last week. He was so thorough, and after he examined my genital area, he said that he should do a rectal and prostate exam.

He told me to try to relax and he did use two fingers. I think he pressed pretty deep and it was like at least three minutes before he stopped. Kind of a long time. It was very uncomfortable. But he was thorough and said it's good to have a prostate baseline early on.

By anon254530 — On Mar 13, 2012

I haven't yet required a prostate exam, but I have had a full rectal exam. I am nervous 19 year old. And it's nothing to be afraid of.

By Gregnco — On Mar 22, 2011

Back in 2003, I went in the hospital and had four stents put in my heart. This really took me by surprise because I was only 38 years old. I had always went to my primary doctor once a year for a check up, but after having my stents put in he said he wanted to see me twice a year and that my annual physical would change.

This was when I started to get a prostate exam once a year. The first time he did it I was really nervous and didn't know what to expect, but I was already undressed, I bent over the exam table and within a few second it was done.

Little did I know that in the future, I would end up getting a full rectal exam, but because of getting the prostate exam first, I sort of knew what to expect.

For those who might not know, a prostate exam the doctor only inserts his finger enough to feel your prostate, but with a full rectal exam he goes all the way in. But even this is not that bad and if it helps to save my life, I'm all for it. I've come to expect this once a year.

By anon143798 — On Jan 17, 2011

I am 28 and my first prostate exam was last year (27 years old) At my physical today i was hoping that it would be an every five year thing but not in my case. Elbows on the table and right up the bum the doc goes. It's really not that bad, uncomfortable for about 60 seconds then it's over. I was just wondering is this normal to get a prostate exam every physical?

By anon138155 — On Dec 30, 2010

I had my first prostate exam last year at age 51. I too was nervous about getting it done, but it was a piece of cake. I am relatively shy, and my urologist was a woman,making matters a little more uncomfortable. But once the exam was done, I felt foolish for even putting it off. Get it done; it could save your life.

By anon111235 — On Sep 15, 2010

I'm almost 18, I'm gay and I have anal sex with my boyfriend often. Do I need a prostate exam or am I okay?

By anon89301 — On Jun 09, 2010

I'm 39. My father has never had prostate cancer, but he did develop a prostate infection a couple of times. do i need to get a prostate exam now?

By anon74307 — On Apr 01, 2010

I had my check 3 years ago at St. Mikes in Toronto, not a PSA, and A-OK. Do I need another exam now? Yes, I am in my golden years.

By anon74162 — On Mar 31, 2010

I have been with an HMO (Kaiser Permanente) for two years and have not had a prostate test even with two physicals. I should complain... what if I developed cancer? Is this the kind of health care (Kaisser-style) that Obama will impose on America?

When visiting a Kaiser clinic recently, I read that Obama specifically commended Kaiser Permanente for providing efficient health care for Americans.

By anon67800 — On Feb 26, 2010

I don't see why a prostate exam isn't part of every man's physical exam, every time. For the patient, it doesn't hurt, it's not uncomfortable, it just feels a little "weird." The exam is over in a matter of seconds and can reveal all sorts of potential problems. Both physician and patient need to check their squeamishness at the door.

By merryhill — On Feb 10, 2009

i am due to see the doctor on another matter, should i ask about having a prostate exam as i have had one a year or so ago, i am 44 and understand that i should be more concerned at around 50, the doctor checked before due to leakage after using the toilet, how should i ask about this embarrassing subject and what would be involved?

By merryhill — On Feb 07, 2009

i had one about a year ago due to leakage of urine after using the toilet. the doctor examined my genital area before the rectal examination, what was this for. i am 44 years of age and i think i'm healthy.

By mdt — On Mar 09, 2008

Simply put, having an annual prostate exam can save a man's life. The exam involves very little discomfort, and is over in no time. If the guy plans on living to a ripe old age and enjoy his grandkids or spend his retirement years traveling and enjoying himself, this simple annual procedure is a good way to improve his chances of being able to do all those things.

By malena — On Jan 27, 2008

Any ideas for encouraging a man over 45 (well over 45 in this particular case) to get a prostate exam?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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