Cancer has become a huge focus among both the media and the medical community over the last few decades. Mainly due to its aggressive symptoms and equally difficult treatment. However, there is one form of cancer that is commonly being overlooked by both outlets due to the location it effects and its taboo status in society.
What Is Anal Cancer?
Anal cancer is a fairly uncommon form of cancer that starts at the opening of one’s rectum. Otherwise known as the anus.
Anal cancer is often overlooked due to the nature of the location that cancer effects. And because society often associates it with sex or dirtiness. This causes people who may be experiencing symptoms of anal cancer. Do not want to discuss it with their doctor or people they know due to embarrassment or shyness.
Anal cancer is not to be confused with it’s more prevalent and well-known counterpart, colorectal cancer. Whereas colorectal cancer affects the entire large intestine and the rectum. Anal cancer refers to cancer that affects only the opening of the rectum.
Approximately 8,000 Americans are diagnosed with anal cancer every year, with an estimated 1,000 of them expected to die from it. Almost one out of every four people who have anal cancer are diagnosed after cancer has spread to lymph nodes. One out of every ten people with anal cancer is diagnosed after it has spread to other organs.
Although it is not as frequent as colon, rectal or colorectal cancer. The number of incidents of anal cancer is steadily increasing. This may be due to the fact that people are not getting it treated early enough.
6 Most Common Symptoms of Anal Cancer
Although catching anal cancer at its earliest stages is incredibly important, it can be very hard to do so since many symptoms of anal cancer are not present during that time. However, as cancer progresses, it can produce a wide variety of symptoms. Some of these include:
Pain or tenderness in the anus
Itching in the anus
Other unusual discharge from anus
Presence of a lump or hard area near outside of anus
Unusual bowel movements
In most cases, the cause of anal cancer is unclear. However, there are factors that can increase your risk of developing anal cancer, these can include frequent irritation of the anus, cigarette smoking, and a compromised immune system.
The people who are most at risk for anal cancer is anybody over the age of 60, as 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 fall under the at-risk demographic, regularly encounter any of the factors that put you at risk and are experiencing any of the previously mentioned symptoms, then it would be advised to get yourself checked for anal cancer.
How To Detect Anal Cancer Early
Detecting anal cancer in its earlier stages can be the determining factor in successfully overcoming it. There are a number of procedures that you can undergo to help detect anal cancer. Here are some of them:
Digital Rectal Exam
During the examination, the doctor puts on a lubricated glove and uses his or her finger to search the anal cavity for lumps and any other abnormalities.
In an anoscopy, your doctor will insert a small, tubular instrument (i.e., an anoscope) into your anus to get a more detailed look at your insides. 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
All these are procedures doctors commonly use to detect anal cancer. However, there is a lot of controversy surrounding these procedures, as many people claim that they can promote the spread of cancer.
Although they may be necessary to detect certain types of anal cancer, your best bet to detect anal cancer is to get annual rectal exams, even if they may be a bit uncomfortable. Let us know if this information helped you in the comment section.