Digital rectal examination for prostate cancer: Attitude and experience of final year medical students

  • NK Dakum
  • VM Ramyil
  • S Abgo
  • E Ogwuche
  • BS Makama
  • AT Kidmas


Objective: Prostate cancer which tends to take an aggressive course in black populations can be detected by digital rectal examination (DRE). There are concerns however that medical students are not acquiring the necessary DRE skills. We therefore studied their experience and attitude towards DRE for prostate cancer to assist us make any necessary adjustments in training. Methods: This was a self-administered questionnaire based study of final year medical students two months to graduation carried out at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, location for clinical studies of the Medical Faculty of the University of Jos. Results: There were 100 students in the study, with a male: female ratio of 3.6:1. The ages ranged from 24 to 35 with a mean of 28 years. Fifty-one percent and 94% agreed they had been taught DRE in class and on the ward/clinic respectively. Almost half (45%) had never performed a DRE and 43% performed it only1-2 times. Sixty-two percent of the students had never confidently palpated a prostate; while 30% had palpated it 1 – 2 times. Eighty-six percent and 7% respectively have never felt a clinically malignant prostate or felt it 1 – 2 times. There was no statistically significant difference in the number of DREs performed by sex or age (p> 0.05). On supervision 43% were never supervised to do DRE while 23% were supervised all the time. Ninety-five percent believed DRE is an essential requirement for a medical practitioner and 96% believed they should have the skills before graduating. Only 36%, however, believed their teachers have been supportive, teaching them DRE (p value= .033). Ninety percent agreed that DRE is useful for screening for prostate cancer. The major reason for not performing DRE more than half the time was the student not feeling competent (54%). Conclusion: Students have received adequate teaching on DRE, have the right attitude and perspective, have adequate knowledge on DRE findings suggestive of prostate cancer but have not translated this knowledge into practice. This is mainly due to the students not feeling competent. Teachers need to intensify practical supervision to enable medical students acquire the necessary experience during clinical training.

Keywords: prostate; cancer; digital rectal examination;students (Date accepted 5 April 2006)

Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice Vol. 10 (1) 2007: pp.5-9

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eISSN: 1119-3077