Anal Cancer

What is Anal Cancer?

Anal cancer is a malignancy that begins within the anus, which is the opening located at the end of the rectum. This condition is uncommon, but infection with HPV (human papillomavirus) can increase the risk of it developing.

This cancer might be detected by a doctor during a standard rectal exam or during the removal of what is thought to just be a hemorrhoid. It could also be detected using proctoscopy, endorectal ultrasound, or anoscopy. Biopsy can also be performed to determine if a malignancy is present.

What are the Symptoms of Anal Cancer?

Bleeding, along with anal itching, are the most common signs that are associated with the development of anal cancer. A lot of people will make the mistake of attributing their anal itching and bleeding to hemorrhoids, thereby delaying diagnosis of the cancer.

Symptoms include

  • Pressure or pain in the anal area
  • Bleeding
  • Itching
  • Unusual discharge from the anus
  • A lump that is located near the anus
  • Changes in bowel movement habits

Anal Cancer Causes

The cause of anal cancer is not clearly known, but doctors have been able to note attributes that possibly lead up to or can make anal cancer develop. Several people who have been diagnosed with anal cancer have a common denominator, that being Human Papilloma Virus or HPV. However, there is a huge number of people who have HPV and never get anal cancer.

Smoking can cause anal cancer. While smoking is more associated with causing lung cancer, the risk of any cancer is inevitable with cigarettes. The reason is that the bad effects of smoking can move throughout the body. It does not just stay in one region.

Having a serious illness, such as HIV, makes anal cancer more of a risk. The decrease in your body’s natural immunity prevents the fight that would be made in an otherwise healthy individual.

How is Anal Cancer Treated?

Early stages

Anal cancer is treatable when it is found early. The prognosis will depend upon the size of the tumor, as well as where it is located within the anus and whether the cancer already spread to any lymph nodes.

Treatment for anal cancer will depend upon the stage of the disease, where the tumor is located, whether or not the patient is infected with HPV, and whether the cancer ends up remaining or recurring after initial treatments are completed.

Treatment includes

This type of cancer is typically treated using a combination of radiation and chemotherapy, as this approach will reduce the patient’s need for a colostomy.

Surgery is usually only recommended for patients that do not respond to chemotherapy and radiation.

Anal Cancer Prevention

Don’t smoke cigarettes. Besides the breathing problems and other cancers that you stand to risk getting, anal cancer can develop alongside these. It is not just cigarettes that you need to stop using but all tobacco products.

If you’re having anal sex, it is important to use protection. Condoms are a great way to reduce the transfer of diseases and maintain cleanliness. Unfortunately, condoms do not have full coverage, therefore they do not protect 100 per cent of your body.

Since HPV runs the risk of producing anal cancer, doctors advise getting the HPV vaccine. Lowering the risk of getting HPV will, in turn, lower the risk of you getting cancer. If you already have HPV, maintain your treatment plans. This goes for HIV as well. There is not a vaccine for HIV yet, but keeping yourself in the best health means that the risk of cancer is lessened for you.

Test early for anal cancer. Detecting it in the early part of the disease is the best action you can take to beat it if you do wind up with anal cancer.

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Last Reviewed:
September 12, 2016
Last Updated:
November 07, 2017