Know the basics
What is anal cancer?
Anal cancer is an type of cancer that occurs in the anal canal. The types of anal cancer depend on the different cell types found there. Major cancers in the anal canal are epidermoid cancer, adenocarcinoma, melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and verrucous carcinoma.
How common is anal cancer?
Anal cancer is rare and occurs slightly more often in women than men. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of anal cancer?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Discharge from the anus.
Pain in the rectum or anus or the feeling of a rectal lump or mass can also be a sign or symptom of anal cancer.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
Know the causes
What causes anal cancer?
The cause is unknown, but something happens to produce a genetic mutation in the cells of the anal canal. The mutation turns healthy cells into abnormal cancer cells.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for anal cancer?
There are many risk factors for anal cancer, such as:
- Being HIV positive;
- Anal sexual activity;
- Many sexual partners;
- Anal warts from infection with human papillomavirus (HPV).
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor.
How is anal cancer diagnosed?
For diagnosis, the doctor uses a medical history and physical examination including a digital rectal examination (DRE) and anoscopy. Anoscopy uses a short lighted tube to look at the area.
A biopsy of the area will be done. In a biopsy, a piece of tissue is removed and a microscope is used to look for cancer cells in tissue. If cancer cells are found on the biopsy, other tests may be done including ultrasonography to see how deep the tumor is and computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to find out whether the cancer has spread (staging).
Checking the tumor’s stage helps the doctor make treatment decisions.
How is anal cancer treated?
Anal cancer is often curable. Treatment depends on tumor size, how deep the tumor is, and whether the tumor spread to lymph nodes in the groin.
Older treatments mainly involved an operation to remove the tumor and tissues around it. Often, a colostomy bag was needed.
Today, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and limited surgery allow most of the anal canal to be preserved. Many people have good anal function with this combination treatment.
A team of specialists involved in care includes an oncologist (who prescribes chemotherapy), radiation oncologist (who uses radiation treatment), and surgeon. Prognosis depends on the tumor’s size and spread.
Lifestyle Changes & Home Remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies help manage anal cancer?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with anal cancer:
- Follow all your doctor’s instructions.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices: eat a good diet, exercise, and get enough sleep.
- Practice safe sex.
Cancer treament is often a long and daunting process. You should tell your family and friends to have more support during the process.
If you have any questions, Please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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Anal cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/anal/patient. Accessed September 27, 2015.
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Review Date: August 15, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017