Signs and Symptoms of Anal Cancer

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Some people experience bleeding with bowel movements or notice a lump near their anus and are concerned they are having symptoms of anal cancer. Let's explore the signs and symptoms of anal cancer, and why it's important to get them checked out by your doctor.

What Is Anal Cancer?

Anal cancer is the uncontrolled and abnormal growth of cells lining the anus. The anus is the opening of the rectum. It allows waste to pass from the large intestine and outside the body. The anus is often confused with the rectum, which is the last several inches of the lower intestine. The rectum ultimately ends at the anus, where fecal material exits the body.

Anal cancer is a rare but serious condition. According to the American Cancer Society, there were an estimated 8,300 new cases of anal cancer diagnosed each year in the United States in 2019.

Signs and Symptoms

Anal cancer sometimes does not cause symptoms. In addition, if a person does experience symptoms of anal cancer, they may be non-specific and mimic other benign, or non-cancerous conditions. For instance, a lump or bump near the anus could be a symptom of anal cancer but can be caused by other, much less serious diseases, like hemorrhoids, an anal fissure, or an anal wart.

That being said, please be sure to see your doctor if you experience any of these signs or symptoms. Do not assume that you are suffering from hemorrhoids if you are experiencing swelling or a bump near the anus or rectal bleeding. Seeking professional guidance will ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment plan if warranted, and you can potentially avoid a delayed diagnosis.

Anal Cancer Symptoms

  • Lumps, bumps, or a growth located near the anus
  • Anal bleeding or bleeding during bowel movements
  • Anal discharge
  • Pain in or around the anus or a feeling of fullness in the anal area
  • Itchy sensation around or inside the anus
  • Change in bowel habits, such as constipation, diarrhea, and/or thinning of the stools
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the anus or groin area

What to Do If You Have Symptoms

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, please see your doctor. It's common for some people to delay going to the doctor because they feel embarrassed by their symptoms or are fearful of being examined in such an intimate part of their body. Please don't let these emotions prevent you from getting medical attention.

During your examination, your doctor will perform a physical examination, including a visual inspection of your anus and a digital rectal exam, in which the doctor inserts a gloved finger into your anus to evaluate for any masses or abnormalities.

Your doctor will also ask you questions about your medical history and risk factors. The good news is that if you do have anal cancer, treatment is often very effective, especially when diagnosed early.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that the five-year survival rate for individuals with anal cancer was 68.3% between 2009 and 2015.

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Article Sources

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  1. American Cancer Society. Key statistics for anal cancer. Updated January 8, 2019.

  2. American Cancer Society. Signs and symptoms of anal cancer. Updated November 13, 2017.

  3. American Cancer Society. Tests for anal cancer. Updated November 13, 2017.

  4. National Institutes of Health. Cancer stat facts: Anal cancer

Additional Reading