Anal cancer is an uncommon type of cancer that occurs in the anal canal. The anal canal is a short tube at the end of your rectum through which stool leaves your body. Anal cancer can cause signs and symptoms such as rectal bleeding and anal pain.
Most people with anal cancer are treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. Though combining anal cancer treatments increases the chance of a cure, the combined treatments also increase the risk of side effects.
Anal cancer signs and symptoms include:
- Bleeding from the anus or rectum
- Pain in the area of the anus
- A mass or growth in the anal canal
- Anal itching
When a genetic mutation transforms healthy, normal cells into malignant cells, anal cancer develops. Healthy cells develop and proliferate at a specific rate before dying at a specific period. Uncontrolled growth and multiplication of abnormal cells prevents their death. A mass (tumour) is created when aberrant cells start to assemble. Cancerous cells can spread (metastasise) from an original tumour by invading neighbouring tissues and separating from them.
Rarely does anal cancer “metastasize” (spread to distant parts of the body). It is discovered that only a small fraction of tumours have spread, but those that have are particularly challenging to cure. Liver and lungs are the most typical organs where anal cancer metastasizes.
There is no sure way to prevent anal cancer. To reduce your risk of anal cancer:
- Practice safer sex. Practicing safe sex may help prevent HPV and HIV, two sexually transmitted viruses that may increase your risk of anal cancer. If you choose to have anal sex, use condoms.
- Get vaccinated against HPV. A vaccine to protect against HPV infection is available. It’s recommended for adolescents, including both boys and girls, but may be given to adults, too.
- Stop smoking. Smoking increases your risk of anal cancer. Don’t start smoking. Stop if you currently smoke.