Anal cancer is one of the most aggressive cancers, especially if not detected in its early stage. However, because of its favourable location and its taboo status among the population, anal cancer is a form of a cancer which is usually overlooked.
What is anal cancer?
Anal cancer develops at the opening of the rectum (anus) as a lump which was created by abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the anus. Although it is not very common, it is often overlooked as people feel uncomfortable discussing it with their physician.Anal cancer and colorectal cancer are two different types of cancer. Colorectal cancer affects the colon and the entire rectum, while anal cancer affects only the opening of the rectum or anus.
Anal cancer affects nearly 8,000 Americans each year, and it is estimated that 1,000 of them are likely to die. One in four people gets diagnosed with cancer only after it spreads to the lymph nodes, and one in ten people get diagnosed after the cancer has metastasized to other organs. Unfortunately, the number of people suffering from anal cancer is constantly increasing, even though it is not as common as colorectal, rectal or colon cancer and the reason for this may be that it is not treated in its early stages.
Anal Cancer Symptoms
As with any cancer, early detection of anal cancer is crucial for successful treatment. However, that can be really hard because its symptoms are not always present.
Nevertheless, these are a number of symptoms which you should never ignore:
– Itching in the anus;
– Tenderness or pain in the anus;
– Unusual bowel movement;
– Anal bleeding;
– Unusual discharge from the anus;
– A hardened area or a lump near the anus
Although the exact causes of anal cancer are still unknown, some of the factors that contribute to it are weakened immune system, smoking, and frequent anal irritation. Anal cancer is mostly common for people over the age of 60. Additionally, men under 35 and women over 60 are at higher risk of developing a colon cancer.
How to detect anal cancer in its early stage
As noted above, if it is detected in its early stages the chances of successfully overcoming cancers are higher. Traditional medicine offers a variety of methods to detect anal cancer, including:
Digital rectal exam: Physicians examine the anal opening with their fingers after having put on a lubricated glove, looking for any abnormalities or lumps.
Anoscopy: This method provides a clearer view of the inside of the anus. During the exam, the doctor puts an anoscope, which is a small tubular instrument into your anus. If the doctor discovers something during the digital rectal examination this test is usually performed.
PET scan, MRI, CT scan, x – rays, ultrasound and biopsy are the methods which are usually used for detection of anal cancer as well. However, some people find these tests controversial and claim that they can cause the anal cancer to spread.