If you’re a middle-aged man, a major cause of concern for you is probably the inevitable prostate examination. Considering the somewhat taboo status of the anus, the digital rectal examination (DRE) is generally regarded with anxiety and embarrassment. It is important for you to remember; however, that this procedure is essential for the prevention or treatment of prostate cancer, the second leading cause of male cancer fatalities. Simply put: most men lack a basic understanding of what to expect from a prostate examination, and therefore attempt to avoid it as long as possible. This behavior isn’t wise, and may ultimately exacerbate the very problem that the DRE is there to prevent.
To begin with, you must note whether your immediate family has a history of cancer, specifically of the prostate. If such is the case, it might be especially prudent of you to begin scheduling regular DRE’s after the age of 40, when detection and treatment of early-onset cancers will be highly effective. If no such history is present, you have no cause for concern until the age of 50. If you have already attained that age, schedule an examination as soon as possible.
The examination itself doesn’t usually take much longer than a minute. Your doctor will ask you to assume a position in which your rectum becomes accessible. (Although pop culture often depicts this position as being bent dramatically over the examination table, this is not necessarily the pose you have to assume.) He or she will then insert a gloved and lubricated finger into your rectum in order to palpate (feel) it for about 50-60 seconds. You’ll experience a minor amount of uncomfortable pressure, but the procedure is not unusually or unduly painful.
It is important to note that this examination will not, in and of itself, be able to prove that you have cancer. What it will do is detect any abnormality or cause for concern that may provide grounds for further testing. Speak to your doctor about whether he or she would recommend that you repeat the examination annually. With foresight and vigilance, nearly 100% of cancer detected in the prostate is curable.