Unfortunately, in some cases, anal cancer may show no symptoms at all; however, bleeding is a major indicator, but it doesn’t have to be excessive. At first, one may associate the bleeding with hemorrhoids which are benign swollen anal and rectum veins.
Anal cancer can manifest through rectal itching and bleeding, a lump or a mass in the anal opening, pain or feeling of fullness in the anal area, narrowed stool, odd anal discharge, and swollen lymph nodes in the groins or anus.
These symptoms may indicate benign conditions like anal warts, hemorrhoids or anal fissures. If you notice them, it’s pivotal to consult your physician to find the underlying cause and discuss available treatment options.
What Are the Reasons for Anal Cancer?
This type of cancer is formed when a genetic mutation transforms healthy cells into abnormal ones. The healthy cells grow and multiply at a specific rate and die out at a specific time. On the other hand, the abnormal ones only grow out of control and don’t diet out.
Consequently, they form a mass or a tumor which further attacks the neighboring tissues and can separate from a primary tumor and metastasize or spread in other parts of the body.
Anal cancer is linked with an STD known as HPV and evidence of it is found in most anal cancers and HPV is considered the most common reason for anal cancer.
There are also other contributing factors to this particular cancer, including older age (+50), having a lot of sexual partners, practicing anal sex, smoking, history of vaginal, vulvar or cervical cancer, an HPV infection or some immune-suppressing drugs.
This cancer rarely spreads to other body parts and only small percentage was found to metastasize. If it does, it’s not easy to treat. Usually, it can spread to the lungs and liver.
What about Prevention?
Unfortunately, there’s no one exact way to avert this cancer. However, you can minimize your risk in the following ways:
- Stop smoking because smoking elevates the chance for anal cancer
- Get a vaccine against HPV
- Practice safe sex at all times
If an anal cancer is found, the team will discuss possible treatment options with the patient- the goal is to save the anal sphincter muscles to ensure bowel control and lower negative influence on your quality of life.
The chosen treatment depends on several factors like type, stage, and location. Other factors that are taken into account are age, health, and personal preferences. The three options for anal cancer treatment that are available are surgery, chemo, and radiation.
The best approach is usually a combination of two or more methods. In the past, only surgery was used as a treatment of this cancer; however, nowadays, chemo and radiation are also combined and surgery may not be needed.
To make the most adequate treatment choice for you, talk about all of the options with the doctor, including the goals and potential side effects. If time allows, find second opinion to increase confidence about the treatment plan you’ve chosen.