Anal Cancer 101: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors And Treatment Options.   

anal cancer

Anal cancer is a type of cancer that occurs due to the formation of malignant cells in the anus tissues. The primary cause of anal cancer has been concluded to be human papillomavirus HPV infection.

The following article discusses the symptoms, causes, stages and treatment options for this cancer.

What Is Anal Cancer?    

What Is Anal Cancer    

The anus is the last part of the digestive tract, present below the rectum. This helps in excretion which is the final phase of the digestion. The process helps in eliminating the unusable product of digestion. The anus contains a sphincter which is a muscular ring that opens and closes as per the bowel movement. This helps in eliminating feces, along with the cells that line it insides.

The skin outside the anus is known as the perianal area. The development of anal cancer can also occur here. The perianal area also shows tumor growth which does not involve the anal sphincter. The treatment of this tumor can be through local therapy.

Symptoms of Anal cancer  

The following anal cancer signs may be observed:

  • Anal cancer lump that can be present around the anus
  • Bleeding from the rectum or the anus
  • Pressure or pain in the area surrounding the anus
  • Discharge or itching around anus
  • Change in bowel habits

Anal Cancer Causes   

Anal Cancer Causes   

A common cause of this condition is HPV or Human Papillomavirus infection. This acts as the external trigger that brings around genetic changes in the division of anal cells. This is a suspicion that does not directly link HPV to anal cancer. The risk factors are responsible for increasing the chances of developing cancer.

In addition, people with HPV do not necessarily get anal cancer. Such as

Risk factors    

The following list displays the risk factors that can aggravate the condition:

  • Experiencing human papillomavirus infection
  • Medical history of a condition that can weaken the immune system such as HIV or organ transplant
  • Personal history of cervical, vulvar or vaginal cancers.
  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Reception of anal sex or intercourse
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Frequent use of the washroom

When to see a doctor   

When to see a doctor   

Observing any of the symptoms listed in the above section warrants a visit to the doctor. A healthcare professional will be able to recognize the cause of the condition. Especially if any of those do not allow you to function normally, you must book an appointment with your physician.

How Can I Prevent Anal Cancer?    

Even though there are no definite steps to prevent cancers, the following may help reduce the risk of anal cancer:

  • Consider HPV vaccine: The administration of vaccines helps in reducing the risk of contracting an infection that microorganisms cause. In this case, HPV infection is a significant risk factor that can increase the risk of anal cancer.
  • Practice safe sex: There is a high possibility that practicing unsafe sex will lead to you contracting HPV infection. A person may or may not show signs of a sexually transmitted disease. Similarly, practicing safe sex will allow you to protect yourself and well as your partner from the infection, thus, the cancer. As per the American Cancer Society, around 9,760 new cases were reported for this condition this year. The data includes both male and female adults in the country.
  • Avoiding the use of tobacco: Quitting the use of tobacco can help reduce the risk of anal cancer significantly. As per CDC, smoking weakens the immune system, making it hard to kill cancer cells.

How Is Anal Cancer Diagnosed?   

The diagnosis of anal cancer can be through the following ways:

  • Physical examination of the rectum and the anal canal by the healthcare professional.
  • Anoscopy which is the use of a flexible tube with light to examine the anal canal, allowing them to get a clear view of the inside.
  • Imaging tests such as MRI, CT scan, X-ray and PET scan, allow the professional to see the location and the size of the cancer.
  • Biopsy. This is a procedure which is the examination of a tissue sample from the area where the cancer originates or the tumor is present.

These diagnostic procedures facilitate the development of a treatment plan.

Anal Cancer Treatment  

The treatment of the condition begins with the chemo- and radiation therapies. These two help control the spread of the cancer to other parts of the body. However, if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, then the treatment plan will be developed accordingly.

The treatment plan can include either of the two or both, depending on the progression of the cancer:

  • Radiation therapy. Includes the use of strong energy beams that can kill the cancer cells. The energy may come from protons, X-rays or other sources of powerful energy beams. Radiation therapy is given daily over numerous weeks.
  • Chemotherapy. This includes the use of strong medicines to treat the cancer. The treatment may include the use of multiple chemotherapeutic medicines. It may either include injecting an anti-cancer drug intravenously or as pills.

Fact check!  

Anal Cancer vs. Hemorrhoids- Is It The Same Or Interrelated?   

Comparison FactorsAnal CancerHemorrhoids
What is it?Anal cancer is a chronic condition that develops due to the uncontrolled cell division in the anus.It is a condition where veins inside the anus and rectum become swollen, which becomes irritate, leading to bleeding, hurt and itching.
SymptomsUnexplained weight loss, anemia, bowel obstruction, and fatigue.Bleeding is one of the major signs of this condition.


Anal cancer is a serious condition that can be caused due to a primary factor which is commonly reported. However, several research suggests that there are risk factors that the article discusses which elevate a person’s chances of developing the condition.

It is important to understand that seeking professional help when you notice the signs and symptoms of this condition is important in curing the condition as soon as possible.

Moreover, the stigma surrounding anal cancer and gay, bisexual men (GBM) receiving diagnosis makes the condition hard to treat. This is because GBM fears that they will be poorly treated when they go to seek medical help.

Read Also:

Share This Article:

Harsha Sharma

Harsha is a senior content writer with numerous hobbies who takes great pride in spreading kindness. Earning a Postgraduate degree in Microbiology, she invests her time reading and informing people about various topics, particularly health and lifestyle. She believes in continuous learning, with life as her inspiration, and opines that experiences enrich our lives.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *