Anal cancer is a sensitive issue, and it’s one of the reasons why it’s not talked about very often. Another reason is that this type of cancer is rare: According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), anal cancer was expected to affect 8,200 people and take the lives of 1,100 people in 2017 in the United States. Of all types of cancer that start in the gastrointestinal tract, anal cancer is one of the rarest.
Even though anal cancer is very uncommon, it’s important to know about its symptoms to get life-saving treatment in time. The disease responds well to treatment if it’s diagnosed early.
Causes of anal cancer
Anal cancer develops when healthy cells that make up the tissue of the anus and anal canal become abnormal. Healthy cells multiply and die off at a set rate, but abnormal cancer cells multiply uncontrollably and don’t die as normal cells do. It causes a cancerous tumor to form.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is detected in most people diagnosed with anal cancer. The virus can also cause other types of the disease, including cancers of the cervix and throat.
Who is at risk of anal cancer?
As we mentioned above, being infected with HPV is a major risk factor for developing anal cancer. Other risk factors include the following:
- older age (according to the NCI, the average age at diagnosis is 61);
- having had cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancer;
- having unprotected intercourse with multiple partners;
- practicing anal sex;
- having a weakened immune system (due to HIV/AIDS or taking immunosuppressants).
Symptoms of anal cancer
Symptoms of the disease are similar to those caused by hemorrhoids. They include the following:
- bleeding from the anus;
- anal pain, pressure, and itching;
- a lump in the anal area;
- changes in bowel movements;
- discharge from the anus.
These symptoms are unlikely to be caused by anal cancer, but if you have such symptoms, go to a proctologist to find out their cause.
Anal cancer can be successfully treated if it’s diagnosed early. If you have any symptoms that concern you, don’t hesitate to tell your doctor about them.
This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.