Anal Cancer

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Overview

Cancer that starts in the cells and tissue of the anus or anal canal is called anal cancer. The anus is the opening at the lowest end of the gastrointestinal tract and is connected to the rectum through the anal canal.

Anal cancer is a rare cancer type and accounts for 1-2% of total intestinal cancer. It mostly occurs in adults with an average age of 60 years and above. The risk of anal cancer is slightly higher in females than in males. At HCG Manavata Cancer Center, we have specialists who are trained to provide the best colon cancer treatment in Nashik.

Types of Anal Cancer

Anal cancer is of four types which are:

  • Adenocarcinoma: This cancer occurs in the anal glands, which produce the mucus or in the lining of the anus near the rectum.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: It is the most common type of anal cancer and occurs in the anus’s outer lining.
  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: This cancer occurs in the area around the anus.
  • Malignant Melanoma: This cancer occurs in the skin lining of the anus.

Symptoms of Anal Cancer

Any symptom that lasts for more than 2 weeks should be brought to a physician’s attention without fail. The symptoms of anal cancer are:

  • Abnormal discharge from the anus 
  • Stool incontinence
  • Bleeding from the rectal area
  • A lump or abnormal mass at the anal opening
  • Itching and pain around the rectum
  • The feeling of fullness in the anus
  • Changes in the bowel movement
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the anal area

Causes of Anal Cancer

The exact cause of anal cancer is not known. However, many factors increase the chances of anal cancer, such as:

  • Human papillomavirus infection
  • Smoking
  • Weak immune system
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Old age
  • History of cancer
  • Drugs that suppress the immune system
  • Unhealthy sexual practices
  • Prior radiation therapy for rectal, bladder, or cervical cancer
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Diagnosis of Anal Cancer

The below tests may be used to diagnose anal cancer:

  • Anoscopy: It allows the doctor to see inside the body using a thin, flexible tube called an anoscope.
  • Biopsy: A small amount of tissue is removed from the anal area for examination under the microscope.
  • Digital Rectal Examination: The doctor inserts a gloved finger inside the anus to check for any lumps or abnormalities.
  • Ultrasound: Sound waves produce pictures of the internal organs to diagnose anal cancer.
  • X-rays: A picture of the inside of the anus is produced using an optimum dose of radiation.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging: An MRI scan may be recommended to obtain detailed images of the anal area. It is the preferred technique of choice for staging anal cancer.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: It produces a 3-D image of the inside of the body using X-rays and computerized technology.

Treatment for Anal Cancer

At HCG Manavata Cancer Center, we have the best oncologists, who have vast experience in delivering the best anal cancer treatment for patients in and around Nashik, Maharashtra. The treatment for anal cancer depends on the stage of cancer, the patient’s overall health condition, and their preferences. The different treatment methods used for anal cancer are:

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs are injected into the body intravenously, which travels throughout the body and kills and inhibits the growth of the cancerous cells. 

Radiation therapy: High-powered beams, such as protons and X-rays are used on the cancerous cells to kill them. When radiation is given through a machine from outside the body, it is called external-beam radiation therapy. When radiation treatment is given using the implants on or near the cancerous cells, it is called internal radiation therapy. Usually, the patient receives radiation therapy for 5 to 6 weeks.

Surgery: Surgery is usually preferred for early-stage and localized anal cancers. The type of surgery to be carried out depends on the stage of anal cancer. A specialized surgical oncologist performs the surgery for anal cancer. An oncologist removes the tumor and a small amount of healthy tissue surrounding it during the surgery.

AP resection: The doctor sometimes carries out abdominoperineal resection for persistent and recurrent cancer. The doctor surgically removes the anus, rectum, and part of the colon. The patient will need a colostomy after the AP resection, wherein an opening is made on the abdominal wall to allow feces to be collected in the bag. 

Immunotherapy: During immunotherapy, medicines that can stimulate a person’s immune system to fight cancerous cells are used. The cancerous cells produce some proteins similar to healthy cells and make them undetectable to the body’s disease-fighting immune system. Immunotherapy drugs interfere with that process and allow the person’s immune system to recognize the cancerous cells and destroy them.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does anal cancer always look like a lump?

It is not necessary to always have a lump in the anal area. Many times, there is no lump at all. You can only see the lump when it is coming outside the body. When the lump is inside the anus, you cannot see it without diagnostic intervention.

2. Can anal cancer recur?

Cancer may recur at the same place or a different place. After the treatment, it is important for patients to keep up their follow-up appointments, as these help in the early detection and timely treatment of recurrences. Recurrences may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy depending on the stage, exact location of the tumor and the overall condition of the patient.

3. If I experience some of the above symptoms, does it mean I have anal cancer?

Several conditions may have symptoms similar to anal cancer. Conditions, such as anal fistula and piles can also lead to the above symptoms, like anal cancer. A thorough examination is necessary to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.

4. What are the ways to manage the side effects of anal cancer treatment?

The doctor will prescribe the medications to reduce the side effects like loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. You should also drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. In addition, the dietician will help you with a protein and iron-rich diet plan to help you with fatigue. You should also follow a healthy lifestyle and good hygiene practices to prevent the risks of infection.

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