Anal cancer is an uncommon type of cancer that starts in the anus, at the end of the rectum. This cancer differs from colorectal cancer since it only affects the opening of the rectum while colorectal cancer affects the entire rectum and the large intestine.
Although it is less common than colorectal cancer, the number of people who suffer from anal cancer constantly increases, mainly because it is not treated in the early stages.
Anal Cancer Signs
Most of the anal cancer patients are diagnosed after its spreading to the lymph nodes or to other organs. In order to recognize this disease on time, and to receive a proper treatment, you should be aware of the warning signs and symptoms of anal cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of Anal Cancer
Although the causes of anal cancer are not specified in most of the cases, there are certain factors that can contribute to developing this disease, such as smoking, weakened immune system, and frequent anal irritation.
The people who are mostly affected by this type of cancer are adults over 60. Often, the symptoms of anal cancer are not present in the early stages.
However, there are certain signs which indicate that you might be suffering from this disease, including:
- Rectal bleeding
- Unusual bowel movements
- Abnormal discharge from the anus
- Rectal itching
- Tenderness and pain in the anus
- Swollen lymph nodes in the anal area
- Presence of a lump or mass near the anus
These symptoms are more commonly caused by benign conditions, such as hemorrhoids, anal warts, or anal fissures.
Nevertheless, if you experience any of these symptoms, you should immediately consult your doctor in order to find the cause and to treat the condition on time.
Detection of Anal Cancer
If you detect anal cancer in the early stages, the chances of effectively overcoming the disease are higher. This cancer can be detected with a number of procedures, including:
- Digital Rectal Exam (DRE): an examination in which the doctor looks for any abnormalities, lumps, and growths in the anal cavity by inserting a gloved, lubricated finger. Sometimes, the DRE is used to look for prostate cancer in men, and as a pelvic exam in women.
- Anoscopy: an examination which involves a small tubular instrument, called anoscope or anal speculum. This instrument is inserted into the anus in order to detect the problems of the anal canal. This exam is performed if something unusual is discovered during the DRE.
- Ultrasound, biopsy, CT scan, MRI scan: procedures which are used for detection of anal cancer in case the disease is suspected. However, these tests are often considered to be controversial by a number of people who claim that they can either cause or spread cancer.