Anal cancer develops from a lump consisting of abnormal and uncontrollably growing cancer cells. It affects the opening of the rectum. It is not a common type of cancer, and it is often overlooked, because sufferers are embarrassed to discuss the symptoms they deal with.
Make a difference between anal and colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer develops in the colon and affects the entire rectum, and anal cancer only grows at the opening of the rectum.
Unfortunately, the number of patients diagnosed with this type of cancer keeps growing, but it is still lower than the number of those who suffer from colorectal, rectal or colon cancer.
What Is Anal Cancer?
Anal cancer is a fairly uncommon form of cancer that starts at the opening of one’s rectum, otherwise known as the anus.
Anal cancer is often overlooked due to the nature of the location that the cancer affects, and because society often associates it with sex or dirtiness. This causes people who may be experiencing symptoms of anal cancer to not want to discuss it with their doctor or people they know due to embarrassment or shyness.
Anal cancer is not to be confused with it’s more prevalent and well-known counterpart, colorectal cancer. Whereas colorectal cancer effects the entire large intestine and the rectum, anal cancer refers to cancer that effects only the opening of the rectum.
Approximately 8,000 Americans are diagnosed with anal cancer every year, with an estimated 1,000 of them expected to die from it. Almost one out of every four people who have anal cancer are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, and one out of every ten people with anal cancer are diagnosed after it has spread to other organs.
Symptoms of anal cancer
Same as other types of cancer, early detection is of essential importance. But, this may be rather difficult, because not all the symptoms are present.
Here are the symptoms you should never ever ignore or feel embarrassed about.
- Itching in the anus
- Tenderness / Pain in the anus
- Unusual bowel movement
- Anal bleeding
- Strange discharge from the anus
- A hardened area / Lump near the anus
Scientists still cannot tell what are the real causes of anal cancer, but the most common contributing factors include poor immune system, smoking, and frequent anus irritation.
Anal cancer is more common in people older than 60. Men under 35 and women older than 60 run at a higher risk of developing colon cancer as well.
How to Detect Anal Cancer in Its Early Stage
As already mentioned, early detection is vital for successful treatment. Traditional medicine offers a number of methods to detect anal cancer and some of these include:
Digital Rectal Exam: A doctor examines the anal cavity with their fingers looking for any abnormalities or lumps in the anus.
Anoscopy: This method gives a clearer view of the inside of the anus. It’s performed with an anoscope, a small tubular instrument that a doctor inserts into your anus. This test is usually done after the doctor has found any abnormalities during the digital rectal exam.
PET scans, MRIs, CT scans, x-rays, ultrasounds and biopsies are also methods used for detection of anal cancer. These tests are found controversial by some people who claim that they can cause anal cancer to spread.