Assume the Position: A First-person Account of a Prostate Exam

One man drops trou and prepares to cough

“Thank you Doc. You ever serve time?”

A man’s first prostate exam can be fraught with worry. One brave soul chronicled his experience with that dreaded digit

Moon River. Ask anyone what they know about  prostate exams and there’s a good chance the first thing that comes to mind is fictional investigative reporter Fletch leaning over a table singing that classic tune as a doctor inserts a gloved digit into his Chevy Chase.

Most of us have heard that 40 is the age when we’re supposed to begin getting our prostates checked. Having recently reached that milestone myself, I boldly went where many a reluctant man had gone before – for a prostate exam.

I arranged to meet Dr. Rhonda Low, a disarmingly funny practitioner who assured me that she has some of the smallest hands in the business. After a chat about my family history and a discussion about the bigger picture of monitoring my prostate health, it was time to undergo a blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE).

You don’t need to do anything to prepare for the exam. No missed meals or cleanses. Dr. Low did mention that riding a bike before the exam or any similar activity that puts a lot of pressure on the prostate could affect your blood work though. In fact, the blood test is done before the DRE for that very reason.

Read more from Dr. Low about prostate health

The Exam

After taking a vial of blood, Dr. Low had me trade my pants and underwear for a paper gown and asked me to lie down on the table. She said that while some doctors prefer to have the patient lean over or be on all fours, she found her patients are most comfortable in the fetal position. Indeed, that made me feel less vulnerable than I imagine the other two positions would have.I took a deep breath to relax, preparing for pain, but what I felt could more accurately be described as pressure. Dr. Low (or Dr. DRE as I now like to call her) inserted one finger and about 12 seconds later (and one rendition of my own “Moon River”) it was over.

When the doctor left me alone to change back into my clothes, I reflected on how much worse I thought it was going to be than it actually was.

In the end, I think Fletch had it right: a sense of humour and levity is the best thing you can bring with you to your first prostate exam.