The digital rectal exam is a physical examination of the rectum, the last few inches of the bowel, just above the anus. The doctor uses a gloved and lubricated finger to check for abnormalities of the anus and rectum. It takes about one to two minutes and, although it may cause some mild discomfort, it should not be painful.
By feeling through the rectal wall, the doctor can also examine the surface of the prostate gland in men and some of the reproductive organs in women.
To continue reading this article, you must login
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.