The anal cancer is cancer that begins to occur at the opening of the rectum also called anus. This is quite unusual type of cancer that very often is overlooked and the reason for that is the location of the affected area. Namely, majority people who have experienced the symptoms of anal cancer are too ashamed to discuss about their issue with medical expert.
At this point it is important to make a difference that anal cancer is not the same type as colorectal cancer. Taking under consideration the fact that colorectal cancer affects the whole large intestine and the rectum, anal cancer affects only the beginning of the rectum.
Statistics shows that every year, over 8,000 Americans are diagnosed with anal cancer. It is estimated that even 1,000 of them will die from it. Namely, 1 out of 4 people who suffer from anal cancer has been diagnosed after the disease already has spread to lymph nodes, while 1 out of 10 people has been diagnosed after it has spread to other organs. Despite the fact that patients who suffer from anal cancer are not as frequent as the other types of cancer like colon, rectal, or colorectal cancer, still the number of people who suffer from it has grown rapidly over the last decade.
Most symptoms are not present during that time and that makes it very difficult to detect the presence of anal cancer in its earliest stages. Over time, as cancer progresses, it most commonly causes many different symptoms including pain and itching in the anus, anal bleeding, unusual discharge from the anus, a lump outside the anus and unusual bowel movements.
In most cases, the cause of anal cancer remains unclear, but still, there are many factors that increase the risk of developing anal cancer, and some of them are frequent irritation of the anus, smoking and weakened immune system.
People who are at higher risk of developing anal cancer are people older than 60 years. Even 80 % of the cases have been detected in people who belong to this category. In addition to that, men under 35 are at higher risk to develop this disease compared to women at the same age category. However, women older than 50 years are at higher risk of developing anal cancer.
HOW TO DETECT ANAL CANCER EARLY?
It is crucial to detect anal cancer during its early stages. In fact, early detection is decisive in overcoming it. There are various procedures that can detect the presence of anal cancer. Some of them are:
Digital Rectal Exam – During this procedure the doctor first looks at the outside of the anus to find out if you have hemorrhoids or fissures. After that, he puts on a latex glove and inserts a lubricated finger into the rectum to search for lumps and any other abnormalities.
Anoscopy – For this method, doctor will insert small, tubular instrument called an anoscope about few inches into your anus in order to determine whether you have anal fissures, anal polyps, hemorrhoids, infection or tumors. This procedure is performed only if doctor finds something abnormal during the digital rectal exam.
There many other procedures that can be used to detect the presence of anal cancer including biopsies, ultrasounds, x-rays, CT scans, MRIs and PET scans. Still, all of above mentioned procedures are surrounded by controversies due to many studies which have suggested that they spread or even cause cancer.