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Although the digital rectal exam is widely used in primary care to screen for prostate cancer, a new study finds limited data to support its effectiveness. The study, a meta-analysis of previous research, found that the quality of available evidence was very low and that existing studies were at risk of bias. In the analysis, pooled sensitivity of the digital rectal exam among primary care physicians was 0.51 and pooled specificity was 0.59. Given the considerable lack of evidence supporting its efficacy, the authors recommend against routinely performing digital rectal exams to screen for prostate cancer in the primary care setting.

Digital Rectal Examination for Prostate Cancer Screening in Primary Care: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Jason Profetto, MD, CCFP, et al
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
http://www.annfammed.org/content/16/2/149.full

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Although the digital rectal exam is widely used in primary care to screen for prostate cancer, a new study finds limited data to support its effectiveness. The study, a meta-analysis of previous research, found that the quality of available evidence was very low and that existing studies were at risk of bias. In the analysis, pooled sensitivity of the digital rectal exam among primary care physicians was 0.51 and pooled specificity was 0.59.

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