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Anal Cancer

Anal Cancer

Definition

Anal cancer is cancer of the anus. This is the canal at the end of the large intestine, below the rectum. The anal sphincter is a muscular ring that controls and allows for bowel movements.

The Anus
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Causes

Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually, these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.

There is evidence that human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is linked to many anal cancers. However, most people who have been infected with HPV do not get anal cancer.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your risk of anal cancer include:

  • HPV infection
  • Use of immunosuppressant drugs
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Receptive anal intercourse
  • HIV infection
  • Smoking
  • Cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer

Symptoms

Some anal cancers do not have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Anal bleeding with and without a bowel movement
  • Pain or pressure around the anus
  • Itching or discharge from the anus
  • A lump near the anus
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Thinning in the width of the stool

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A digital rectal exam may also be done.

The rectum and anus may need to be examined. This can be done with:

  • Anoscopy
  • Proctoscopy

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy

Images may be taken of your body structures. These may include:

  • Endoscopy
  • Transrectal ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Combined PET/CT scan
  • MRI scan

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Prevention

You may be able to reduce your risk of anal cancer by reducing your exposure to HIV and HPV. There is a vaccine available that protects against 4 types of HPV.

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