Anal cancer is a common type of cancer that originates in the anal canal. It occurs when cells in the lining of the anal canal start proliferating and form a tumour. The anal canal is a narrow, short tube at the end of your rectum, which serves as a passage to stool that leaves your body.
Anal canal cancers are more common in men than women. The most common types of anal canal cancer are squamous cell carcinoma that develops from abnormal squamous cells. Adenocarcinoma is a rare type of anal canal cancer that originates within the glands surrounding the anus.
What are the symptoms that you need to look out for?
It usually doesn’t cause signs or symptoms until it reaches advanced stages. The most common symptom associated with anal cancer is bleeding and itching. Therefore, they are often mistaken for other rectal problems like haemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal diseases. Other symptoms of anal cancer may include:
- Passing thin stools
- Pre rectal bleeding
- Changes in bowel movement habits
- Excessive itching
- Unusual discharge from the anus
- Pain and pressure around the anus
- A lump or mass growth in the anal canal
What are the various risk factors associated with anal canal cancer?
While no one knows why cells become cancerous, various factors increase the risk of developing anal canal cancer. These factors are:
- Ageing – Anal canal cancer usually occurs in people above 50 years. Not practising safe sex – People who have many sexual partners and not use protection are more at risk of developing anal cancer.
- Anal sex – People who practise anal sex are more at risk of developing anal cancer.
- Smoking – People who smoke excessively are more susceptible to cancer.
- History of other cancer – People who had cervical, vulvar or vaginal cancer are more prone to anal cancer.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) – HPV infection can also cause certain cancers, including cervical and anal canal cancer.
- Immunosuppressants – People who regularly take drugs to suppress immune systems or have an autoimmune disease are more at risk than others.
Anal cancer is easy to detect and highly curable in the early stages. Therefore, most cancers are diagnosed before it metastasizes into nearby organs. Our doctors will perform various tests and procedures to diagnose anal canal cancer. These tests can include:
- Digital rectal exam: They will perform a physical examination of the rectum to check for any abnormal growth or mass in the anal canal.
- Visual inspection – They will insert an anoscope into the anal canal to check for anything unusual, such as lumps or growths.
- Ultrasound – They will insert an ultrasound probe via the anus to create a detailed image of the anal canal.
- Biopsy – If they suspect cancer, they will take a tissue sample from the anal canal and check it for cancer.
Our doctors plan the most viable treatment option to ensure improved outcomes. It can include:
To cure cancer, our doctors will remove the tumour and the surrounding tissues that have been affected by it. If the anal cancer is at an early stage, they will remove the tumour without damaging the sphincter muscles. If cancer has advanced, they will perform an abdominoperineal resection or AP resection to remove the anal canal, the rectum and affected part of the colon.
Our medical oncologists will administer anticancer drugs to target and destroy rapidly-growing cancerous cells. It can be given orally or intravenously to treat cancers that have not yet metastasized.
Our radiologists will use high-intensity radiation to target and destroy cancerous cells. It can be performed after the surgery to destroy cancerous cells and prevent a recurrence.
Our doctors will use specialized drugs to help the body’s immune system target cancer cells.