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What Is Anal Cancer?

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   4 min     


The anus is part of the gastrointestinal tract, and it is the opening at the end of the large intestine, below the rectum, where bowel movements leave the body. Anal cancer begins when healthy cells in or on the anus change and grow out of control, forming a mass called a tumor. A tumor can be cancerous or benign.

Some of the abnormal cells go away without treatment, but others can become cancerous. This phase of the disease is called dysplasia, which is an abnormal growth of cells. Dysplasia in the anus is called Anal Intraepithelial Neoplasia (AIN) OR Anal Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions (SILs).

What is Cancer?

Cancer is nothing but the uncontrolled multiplication of cells. The unmanageable cancer cells can also migrate and settle at different body parts and transform the healthy cells or the benign tumors to malignant ones. When it comes to anal cancer, it is described as a malignant tumor in/of the anus canal that destroys the healthy tissue present there.

What is Anal Cancer?

An abnormal (malignant) growth in the anal canal is known as anal cancer. It can be divided into:

A. Carcinoma in situ

This happens when the cancer cells develop on the inner surface layer of the anus and have not grown any deeper. This is defined as an early cancerous stage by a few of the health specialist.

B. Invasive Anal Cancers

Anal cancer is a rare type of cancer that develops in the anal canal. The different types of invasive anal cancer are:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of anal cancer, and it begins in the outer lining of the anal canal.
  • Cloacogenic carcinoma is the type of cancer arises from the outer part of the anus and the lower part of the rectum.
  • Adenocarcinoma arises from the glands that make mucous located under the anal lining
  • Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that appears in the perianal skin.
  • Melanoma begins in cells that produce color found in the skin or anal lining.

What causes Anal Cancer?

All cancers are caused by a genetic mutation that turns the normal, healthy cells into abnormal cells. Anal cancer is the result of this as well. Normal body cells multiply at a specific rate, and at a particular time. Certain factors cause the mutation in the genetic material of the cells and results in abnormal growth and multiplication (out of control, and they don't die) which results in cancer. When the abnormal cells accumulate, it forms a mass known as a tumor. These cells invade the nearby tissues and can separate from an initial tumor to spread elsewhere in the body.

The mutation can be caused due to a sexually transmitted infection (human papillomavirus) or HPV in a majority of anal cancer cases.

What are the risk factors involved?

The risk factor involved in Anal Cancer are:

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Infection with this virus is a risk factor for anal cancer. Sexual activity with someone who has HPV is the most common way someone gets HPV. There are vaccines available to protect you from some HPV strains.
  • Age. Most people diagnosed with anal cancer are between age 50 and 80.
  • Frequent anal irritation. Frequent anal redness, swelling, and soreness may increase the risk of developing anal cancer.
  • Anal fistula. It is an abnormal tunnel between the anal canal and the outer skin of the anus. The tunnel often drains pus or liquid. An anal fistula may increase the risk of developing anal cancer.
  • Cigarette smoking. Smokers are about eight times more likely to develop anal cancer than non-smokers.

What are the Symptoms of Anal Cancer?

Watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Bleeding from the anal area
  • Pain or pressure in the anal area
  • Itching or discharge from the anus
  • A lump or swelling near the anus
  • A change in bowel habits or change in the diameter of the stool

How is Anal Cancer diagnosed?

The following tests may be used to diagnose anal cancer:

  • Digital rectal examination (DRE). During this test, the doctor inserts a gloved finger into the anus to feel for lumps or other abnormalities.
  • Anoscopy: It allows the doctor to see inside the body with a thin, lighted, flexible tube called an anoscope.
  • Proctoscopy:  Proctoscope is used to view the rectum. The person may be sedated as the tube is inserted into the anus and/or rectum.
  • Biopsy
  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. 

Can Anal Cancer be treated?

Depending on how big the tumor is, to what extent it has spread, and the general health of the patient, different treatment options are adopted. The most effective treatment options are as follows:

  • Surgery: Anal Melanoma shows less response to chemotherapy or radiation. Therefore, surgery to remove the cancer is the commonly adopted treatment. Here, tumor along with a rim of surrounding healthy tissue is removed.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy, also known as “chemo,” is one of the most widely used traditional cancer treatments. The popularity of this treatment is because it is a noninvasive medical management procedure for cancer patients.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses beams of intense energy (radiation) to destroy the cancer cells.

Talk to your doctor for more information. You can even find one here on Medikoe. Find an experienced and certified healthcare specialist near you on Medikoe answer all your questions.

Tags:  cancer,tumors,anal cancer,anus,rectum,

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