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What is Anal Cancer? 5 Early Anal Cancer Symptoms

Best anal cancer treatment in Chennai
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Anal cancer occurs in the anal canal which is considered an uncommon type of cancer. The anal canal is a short tube that is found at the end of your rectum from where stool leaves your body.

Anal cancer can cause various signs and symptoms. Some of the common anal cancer symptoms include anal pain and rectal bleeding.

Most people with anal cancer get a combined treatment of chemotherapy and radiation after early anal cancer symptoms are detected. It may increase the chances of cure, but at the same time, the combined treatments may also increase the chances of multiple side effects.

5 Anal Cancer Symptoms

The early anal cancer symptoms are:

  • Severe bleeding from the rectum or anus
  • Pain in the anal area
  • Growth, mass or lump in the anal canal
  • Itching in the anal area
  • Diarrhoea or Constipation

Anal Cancer Risk Factors

  • Smoking cigarettes may lead to an increased risk of anal cancer.
  • Older age. Most cases of anal cancer are prone to occur among people who are age 50 and above.
  • Many sexual partners. People who have more sexual partners in their lifetime are prone for a greater risk of anal cancer.
  • Anal sex. People who are engaged in receptive anal sex get a higher risk of anal cancer.
  • History of cancer. If anyone have a cervical, vulvar or vaginal cancer then there are more chances of risk of developing an anal cancer.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV infection increases your risk of several types of cancers, which includes the anal cancer and cervical cancer. HPV infection is a sexually transmitted infection which causes genital warts at times.
  • People who intake drugs can suppress their immune systems by immunosuppressive drugs.
  • People who have received organ transplants are also at an increased risk of anal cancer. 
  • HIV virus that causes AIDS can also suppress the immune system leading to an increased risk of anal cancer.

Diagnosis of anal cancer

The following tests and procedures may be used if the patient has any early anal cancer symptoms:

  • Physical exam : This is done to check the general signs of health, like the lumps or abnormalities like the patient history,  the health habits, past illnesses and treatments.
  • Digital rectal examination (DRE): The lubricated, gloved finger is inserted by the doctor into the lower part of the anus or rectum by which he/she can feel the lumps or anything that seems unusual.
  • Anoscope: An exam of the lower rectum and anus using a short, lighted tube called an anoscope.
  • Proctoscopy: A procedure to check the interiors of the rectum and anus using a proctoscope. It may also have a tool to take our the tissue samples.
  • Endo-anal or endorectal ultrasound: An  ultrasound transducer is inserted into the anus or rectum for echoes which in turn form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram.
  • Biopsy: The cells or tissues are removed and later it can be viewed using a microscope to check for signs of cancer. In case of abnormality, a biopsy may be done at the same time.

The treatment options after detecting the early anal cancer symptoms depend on the following:

  • The stage of the cancer.
  • Tumour in the anus or rectum
  • HIV disease

Stages of Anal Cancer

After early anal cancer symptoms have been diagnosed, certain tests are taken to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body which is called staging. This further helps to determine the stage of the disease to plan for the anal cancer treatment. The following tests used in the staging process:

  • CT scan: A detailed picture of areas inside the body, such as the abdomen, chest, pelvis,  are taken from different angles. The pictures taken are linked to an x-ray machine. 
  • Chest x-ray: An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body like the bones or other organs making a picture of areas inside the body.
  • MRI scan: A procedure made to get series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body to detect abnormalities.
  • PET scan: A procedure where malignant tumour cells which are brighter are detected in the body with a small amount of radioactive glucose  injected into a vein. 
  • Pelvic exam: An exam of the cervix,  vagina,  uterus,  ovaries, fallopian tubes, and rectum where a speculum is inserted into the vagina and cervix for signs of disease. 
Early Anal Cancer Symptoms

Stages of anal cancer:

The stages of anal cancer are divided into four after diagnosing the early anal cancer symptoms. They include:

Stage 0

In stage 0, abnormal cells are detected in the innermost layer of the anus which can become cancerous and spread into nearby normal tissue. 

Stage I

In stage I, cancer will have formed and the tumour will be of 2 centimetres or smaller.

Stage II

Stage II anal cancer is categorized into stages IIA and IIB.

  • The tumour is larger than 2 centimetres in stage IIA  but not larger than 5 centimetres.
  • The tumour is larger than 5 centimetres in stage IIB.

Stage III

Stage III anal cancer is categorized into stages IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC.

  • The tumour is 5 centimetres or smaller in stage IIIA, and it spreads to lymph nodes which is near the anus or groin.
  • The tumour is any size and spreads to nearby organs in stage IIIB but does not spread to lymph nodes.
  • The tumour is any size and spreads to nearby organs in stage IIIC but it spreads to lymph nodes near the anus or groin.

Stage IV

In stage IV, the tumour can be of any size which can spread to lymph nodes or nearby organs and other parts of the body, such as the lungs or liver.

Anal cancer can recur after it has been detected with the early anal cancer symptoms and treated.

Types of anal cancer

Anal cancers are frequently partitioned into 2 gatherings in view of where they start:

cancers of the anal canal trench (over the anal verge)

cancers of the perianal skin (beneath the anal verge) – recently called malignant growths of the butt-centric edge


Anal cancer forms when a genetic mutation turns normal, healthy cells into abnormal cells. Healthy cells grow and multiply at a set rate, eventually dying at a set time. Abnormal cells grow and multiply out of control, and they don’t die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a mass (tumor).

Anal Cancer Prevention

  • Practice safer sex
  • Get vaccinated against HPV
  • Stop smoking
  • Early detection is key to beating cancer!

To get an opinion on the anal cancer symptoms, get an appointment today.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Anal cancer may not always have noticeable symptoms, but common ones include pain, itching, or discharge in the anal area, changes in bowel movements, and the presence of a lump or mass near the anus. As the cancer progresses, early anal cancer symptoms can become more severe and may include bleeding, difficulty with bowel movements, and fatigue.

While hemorrhoids or piles themselves are not cancerous, they can share certain cancer symptoms, such as bleeding from the anus. This is not the same as early anal cancer symptoms but in rare cases, chronic irritation from hemorrhoids can potentially lead to the development of anal cancer, but this is not a common occurrence.

Yes, anal cancer is often curable, especially if you detect the early anal cancer symptoms at an initial stage. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, and the best course of action will depend on factors such as the stage of the cancer and the individual’s overall health.