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The Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
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The prostate is an internal organ, so the physician cannot look at it directly. However, the doctor can feel the prostate. This simple procedure, called a digital rectal examination (DRE) is relatively innocuous. It is done with a gloved, lubricated finger. The physician presses gently on the lower wall of the rectum. It can be a little uncomfortable, but the potential benefits by far outweigh any discomfort. The examination allows the physician to estimate whether the prostate is enlarged or has lumps or areas of abnormal texture. The prostate gland is next to the rectum, and most cancers begin in the part of the gland that can be reached by a rectal exam. The exam takes about 5 minutes and there are no risks associated with the procedure.
-General Norman Schwarzkopf
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Prostate Cancer Coalition of North Carolina (PCCNC)