Anal cancer is cancer of the anus, which is the opening at the end of the rectum. Anal cancer is different from colorectal cancer. The causes, risk factors, progression, staging, and treatment between the two cancers is different as well. Anal cancer is rare and is much less common than colorectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, there are just over 5,000 new cases of anal cancer a year. In comparison, there are over 40,000 new cases of colorectal cancer every year. Anal cancer is a lump of malignant cells that are created by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the anus.
Roughly 50 percent of cases are found before the cancer has spread. When the cancer is found in its early stages, the cancer is highly treatable with a five-year survival rate of 82 percent.
At Yale Colon & Rectal Surgery, we understand that a diagnosis of cancer can be frightening. Our nationally renowned surgeons and specialists offer compassionate care and individualized attention to help you through every step of your surgery. Our patients receive treatment at Smilow Cancer Hospital of Yale-New Haven, a world-class cancer care center that offers the latest diagnostic and treatment technologies, educational and supportive resources, and a warm, welcoming environment.
Causes of Anal Cancer
Anal cancer forms when a genetic mutation causes healthy, normal cells to multiply and grow out of control. This accumulation of abnormal cells forms a lump known as a tumor. Cancer cells have the ability to spread and invade normal tissue. The most common cause for this abnormal cell growth is HPV (human papillomavirus), a sexually transmitted viral infection.
A risk factor is anything that increases the chance for developing a disease. The following risk factors have been linked to developing anal cancer:
- Age (50 years or older)
- Being infected with HPV (human papillomavirus)
- Having many sexual partners
- Having anal intercourse
- Frequent anal redness, swelling, and soreness
- Having anal fistulas (abnormal openings)
Having one or more of the above risk factors does not mean that you will develop anal cancer. Understanding your risk factors will help you determine, what, if any, precautions and special screening you should consider.
Symptoms of anal cancer may include:
- Bleeding from the anus or rectum
- Pain or pressure in the area around the anus
- Itching or discharge from the anus
- A lump near the anus
- A change in bowel movements (i.e. constipation or diarrhea)
If you have one or more of the above symptoms, it does not mean that you have anal cancer. If you think you may have anal cancer, please contact your doctor.