The public has been greatly focused on cancer for the last decade since every year the number of people suffering from the disease is getting bigger and bigger, and the symptoms of the disease itself and the treatments are being equally difficult. There are many types of cancers: breast cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, ovarian cancer, blood etc., and people openly speak about them, but there is still one type if cancer which seems as if everyone is too embarrassed to talk about.
Anal cancer symptoms are often overlooked mainly because people don’t wanna talk or are too shy to talk about their issues with the rectum.
This type of cancer is not the same as colorectal cancer, because colorectal cancer affects the entire large intestine and the rectum, while anal cancer refers to cancer that affects only the opening of the rectum.
About 8.000 Americans are diagnosed with anal cancer, out of whom 1.000 are expected to die from it. Almost one out of every four people who have anal cancer are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, and one out of every ten people with anal cancer are diagnosed after it has spread to other organs. The reason for this is late detection, and the reason for late detection is – you guessed it – not wanting to talk about, or not paying attention to the symptoms.
Early detection is very important as with any type of cancer, but when it comes to anal cancer symptoms, they aren’t really present in the early stages.
The earliest symptoms that indicate anal cancer are:
- Other unusual discharge from anus
- Presence of a lump or hard area near outside of anus
- Pain or tenderness in the anus
- Itching in the anus
- Anal bleeding
- Unusual bowel movements
Mostly the cause of anal cancer is unclear, but there are some factors that can increase your risk of developing anal cancer including frequent irritation of the anus, cigarette smoking and a compromised immune system. Also, people over 60 years old have the highest risk of developing this cancer since 80% of anal cancer cases occur in people who fall under this demographic. Under the age of 35, men are most likely to develop anal cancer, however, after the age of 50 women become slightly more at risk than men.
If you recognize yourself at any of the risk groups or experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, then consult with your doctor as soon as possible and get yourself checked for anal cancer.
There are ways for detecting this cancer in its early stages such as:
Digital Rectal Exam – No, it doesn’t include anything electronic, but rather the digits on your fingers. The doctor puts on a lubricated glove and uses their finger to search the anal cavity for lumps of any other abnormalities.
Anoscopy – A small, tubular instrument called an anoscope is inserted into your anus so the doctor can get a more detailed look at what is going on in there. These are usually only performed if the doctor has found something abnormal during the digital rectal exam.
Biopsies, ultrasounds, x-rays, CT scans, MRIs and PET scans – These are all common and well known procedures, but are controversial because many people claim that they can either spread or cause cancer.
All in all, the best way to detect anal cancer in its early stages, is by getting an annual rectal exams no matter how uncomfortable it is. Remember that your health is above all and stay safe.