Anal Cancer: Everything You Should Know
Cancer of the anus, more commonly known as anal cancer, is the growth of abnormal cells in the anal canal, which is the last few inches of the large intestine where solid waste leaves the body.
Both men and women are equally susceptible to developing anal cancer, although men are less likely to be diagnosed with it. Learn more about this condition and what causes it, along with its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and prognosis, in this guide.
Anal cancer (also known as anal adenocarcinoma) refers to the malignant growth of cells in the tissues of the anus and can occur in any part of the rectum.
The risk of developing anal cancer increases with age. However, it can affect people of all ages, including children and adolescents.
Although anal cancer is relatively rare and can be treated successfully if diagnosed early, symptoms tend to develop gradually over time; many individuals do not realize they are suffering from this condition until it has reached an advanced stage.
What is anal cancer?
Anal cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the anal canal, which is at the end of the rectum. The risk of developing anal cancer is higher for people with HIV or HPV (human papillomavirus).
The most common symptom of this form of cancer is bleeding and/or pain around the anus. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions, so it’s important for patients to talk to their doctor if they notice anything unusual.
Anal cancer: Causes
Anal cancer is primarily caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to abnormal growth of cells in the anus. Different types of HPV have different risk factors. Some types are more likely to cause this kind of cancer than others.
Other factors that might increase the risk for anal cancer include smoking, anal sex and a history of other sexually transmitted diseases. It can also be genetic or related to an immune deficiency disorder.
Risk factors such as HIV/AIDS or Hodgkin’s lymphoma may put patients at higher risk for developing anal cancer. A family history of breast, ovarian, or colorectal cancers may also play a role.
Anal cancer: Symptoms
The symptoms of anal cancer are similar to those of other cancers in the area. They include:
- Persistent bleeding from the rectum or anus.
- A lump or mass near the rectum that can be felt during a pelvic exam.
- A painless lump near the anus that can be felt during a pelvic exam.
- Discharge from the rectum (containing blood).
- Anal pain
- Anal itching
Types of anal cancer
There are three main anal cancer types that can be diagnosed. These are anal squamous cell carcinoma (ASCC), anal adenocarcinoma (AAC), and ileocecal adenocarcinoma (IAC).
- ASCC is the most common form of this cancer and usually develops in the skin that lines the anus or lower rectum.
- AAC typically occurs in mucosal cells lining the anal canal.
- IAC is a rare type of anal cancer which arises from cells at the junction between the small intestine and colon called the ileocecal valve.
Anal cancer: Diagnosis
Cancerous cells of the anus may be found during a digital rectal exam or during minor procedures such as the removal of what is thought to be a haemorrhoid.
However, it may also be detected through more invasive procedures such as an anoscopy, proctoscopy, or endorectal ultrasound. In cases of possible cancer, a biopsy is done, and the specimen is examined by a pathologist.
Anal cancer: Treatment
The treatment of anal cancer includes a combination of radiation and chemotherapy.
The type of treatment depends on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed. If it has not spread to other areas, surgery may be an option for removing the tumour or lesions.
The type of operation is determined by where the tumour or lesion is located in relation to important structures, such as nerves and blood vessels, that need to remain intact after the operation.
Sometimes surgery involves cutting out the tumour and some surrounding healthy tissue (called a wide local excision) to try to remove all traces of cancer.
In more advanced cases, when only some small tumorous cells are left in the anus, radiotherapy may be recommended as well.
When to see a doctor
It is important to see a doctor if patients are experiencing any anal cancer symptoms.
We diagnose anal cancer by examining the outside and inside of the anus. Besides, we may perform an anoscopy to examine the inside of the anus with a small telescope.
In addition, tests on tissues and blood may be conducted in order to learn more about the specific type of anal cancer.
The CK Birla Hospital is one of the best facilities for anal cancer care. Our team of doctors and nurses are experts in all aspects of anal cancer treatment and diagnosis.
We offer various services, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, palliative care and counselling. Our team also provides clinical trials to help find new treatments. We employ the best technologies and state-of-the-art equipment for accurate diagnosis.
If you or someone you know needs assistance with anal cancer, we recommend visiting the nearest CK Birla hospital or booking an appointment with Dr (Prof.) Amit Javed to discuss your concerns and avail of specialized treatment.