What is Anal Cancer?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2018
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Anal cancer is the development of a malignancy in the anus. The tumor can often develop in the area in between the rings of the anus, creating partial or complete blockage. It is important to note that anal cancer is a physical condition totally separate from colorectal cancers, although the two conditions do occur within relatively close proximity.

There are a number of risks that can predispose someone to the potential of developing anal cancer. Smoking is proven to increase the chances for cancer in every system of the body, including the anus. Anal lesions that develop as a result of inflammatory bowel disease will also increase the risk. Hemorrhoids are one example of the types of lesions that can provide the proper environment for the development of cancer in the anus. Drugs that suppress the natural function of the immune system can also increase the risk.

Sexual activity can also play a role in the development of anal cancer. Any type of sexual play involving the anus can result in the development of lesions and possibly infect the anus with the human papillomavirus. Unprotected anal sex is the most likely form of erotic play that could create these circumstances, although use of adult toys and other practices also carry a risk.


Symptoms associated with anal cancer include bloating caused by an inability to eliminate waste properly, severe and consistent anal itching, and bleeding from the rectum from time to time. The rectal bleeding may or may not be accompanied with pain. In women, pressure on the vaginal wall may result from the bloating. There is also some evidence that the presence of anal cancer leads to vaginal dryness as well.

Treatment for anal cancer is very similar to that of any other internal cancer. Depending on the current status of the tumor, the physician may choose to utilize radiation or chemotherapy as a first line of defense. Should these treatments prove ineffective, surgery is the only remaining option. Because the surgical procedure involves the removal of the sphincter, the patient is very likely to become permanently incontinent and require a permanent colostomy.

Anal cancer can strike anyone of any age. For this reason, anyone who engages in what is considered high-risk activities such as smoking or sexual activity involving the anus should be checked regularly. A Pap smear that is very similar to those used to detect cervical cancer is one of the most effective tools in the early detection of the cancer. In addition, anyone who notices some of the basic symptoms associated with anal cancer should see a physician immediately. While each of the symptoms can be a sign of other health issues, an examination by a qualified health professional will rule out or confirm the presence of cancer in the anus.



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