Signs and Symptoms of Anal Cancer

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 healthcare provider.

A man reading the paper on the toilet
Getty Images

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 will be an estimated 8,590 new cases of anal cancer diagnosed in the United States in 2020.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that the five-year survival rate for individuals with anal cancer was 68.7% between 2010 and 2016.

Anal Cancer 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 noncancerous conditions.

Anal cancer symptoms may include:

  • 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

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 healthcare provider 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.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, please see your healthcare provider. It's common for some people to delay going to the healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider will perform a physical examination, including a visual inspection of your anus and a digital rectal exam, in which the healthcare provider inserts a gloved finger into your anus to evaluate for any masses or abnormalities.

Your healthcare provider 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.

Was this page helpful?
5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Cancer Society. Key statistics for anal cancer. Updated January 8, 2020.

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

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

  4. Chiu S, Joseph K, Ghosh S, Cornand RM, Schiller D. Reasons for delays in diagnosis of anal cancer and the effect on patient satisfactionCan Fam Physician. 2015;61(11):e509–e516.

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