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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What Is It?

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.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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