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Anal cancer 

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Anal cancer is found in the anus- the opening from where stool is eliminated outside the body. It a rare type of cancer, but could be cured if managed in the early stages.

Symptoms of anal cancer

  • Bleeding from anus normally or while passing bowel
  • Pain and itching in anus
  • Lump like growth in the anus
  • Narrowing of bowel
  • Abnormal discharge from the anus

When to see a doctor?

If you are undergoing screening for cancer, then it would get diagnosed. Otherwise check with your doctor if you observe bleeding from anus.

What causes anal cancer?

Just like any other cancer, anal cancer also occurs due to genetic mutation in healthy cells, which turn cancerous.

The following group of people are at risk of having anal cancer

  • Anal cancer is mostly found in people above 60 years of age.
  • One of the main causes of anal cancer is – anal intercourse
  • Patients with STD- HPV infection, HIV/AIDS
  • Patients taking immunosuppressant
  • People who are heavy smokers

Diagnosis of anal cancer

Diagnosis of anal cancer has two parts- viz. confirmation of cancer and staging of cancer.

Confirming cancer

Doctors check medical history of patient associated with STD infections or any other complications in anus or rectum. Following this patients undergo digital rectal examination and other imaging tests like anoscopy, endorectal ultrasound and protoscopy. These tests help to detect tumour, bleeding and other internals signs of anal cancer.

Next, patients undergo anal biopsy for confirming presence of cancer.

Staging of anal cancer

Staging is vital part of the diagnosis and treatment. The nature, size and extent of spread can be determined with imaging tests like CT scan and MRI of the abdomen, pelvis and lymph nodes. Malignant spread of tumour cells may be diagnosed by PET test. Chest x ray involving images of bones and organs of the chest is vital for understanding the metastatic spread of can to these organs.

The stages of anal cancer are: 

Stage 0- Abnormal cells detected in the inner lining of the anus

Stage I – Anal cancer is found and the size of tumour is 2 cm

Stage II – Anal cancer is more than 2 cm but is confined to anus

Stage III A-  The size of the tumour could be any, but it has either spread to the rectal lymph nodes or proximal pelvic organs like bladder, urethra

Stage III B – The tumour could be of any size and the cancer spreads to other lymph nodes of pelvis

Stage IV- The tumour is of any size and has become metastatic – i.e. has spread to other organs of the body

Treatment of anal cancer

Treatment of anal cancer is no different from other types of cancer. The standard treatment options like radiation treatment and chemotherapy or combination treatment will be used on the patient. The duration and dose of treatment will depend on the stage of cancer.

There are other approaches as well to heal anal cancer. Early stage small tumours can be removed by surgery. Another surgical procedure for removing anal cancer that hasn’t been treated well with conventional chemo and radiation therapy is - abdominoperineal resection followed by colostomy.

Doctors also provide support for dealing with the side effects of the drugs and to improve lifestyle as a whole.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: December 29, 2014