Rectal (both digital and rigid sigmoidoscopic) examination is an important part of the clinical examination. The aim of this study was to find out the opinions of the patients to this routine examination at the time of referral by their general practitioner and during their first hospital interview. Assessment of the value for the rectal examination was also examined. We questioned 103 patients attending their second out-patient interview through a simple questionnaire. We discovered that patients considered awareness and explanation important: patients preferred to be told of the possibility of rectal examination prior to hospital consultation. Explanation of the method and reason was expected from hospital doctors. Formal consent was expected; informed verbal consent should be sufficient. Where logistically possible, a chaperone should always be present. Rectal examination would have facilitated the diagnosis in 47% of the patients examined. Thus, rectal examination should be performed on all patients where symptoms are referable to the lower gastrointestinal tract and where a possible diagnosis may be made or facilitated.
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