In the past couple of decades both in the medical community and in the media cancer has become very present, mostly because of its aggressive symptoms and very difficult treatment. Nevertheless, because of where it is located and its taboo status among the population anal cancer is a form of cancer which is usually overlooked.
Anal cancer should not be confused with colorectal cancer. Whereas colorectal cancer affects the whole large intestine and the rectum, the anal cancer affects only the beginning of the rectum.
Anal cancer affects nearly 8,000 Americans every year, 1,000 of whom die. One in four people is diagnosed with this cancer only after it spreads to the lymph nodes, and one in ten people is diagnoses after the cancer has metastasized to other organs. Unfortunately, this cancer has been on the rise in recent years, although it’s still rarer than colorectal, rectal or colon cancer.
THE SYMPTOMS OF ANAL CANCER!
It is very difficult to detect the presence of anal cancer in its earliest stages because most symptoms are not present during that time. However, as cancer progresses, it usually causes many different symptoms such as 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 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 during its early stages is decisive in overcoming it. There are many procedures that can detect the presence of anal cancer. Here are some of them:
- Digital Rectal Exam: For any abnormalities and lumps a physician examines the anal cavity with their fingers after having put on a lubricated glove during this exam.
- Anoscopy: This method gives a clearer view of the inside of the anus. It’s performed with an anoscope, a small tubular instrument that a doctor inserts into your anus. This test is usually done after the doctor has found any abnormalities during the digital rectal exam.
- PET scans, MRIs, CT scans, x-rays, ultrasounds and biopsies are also methods used for detection of anal cancer. These tests are found controversial by some people who claim that they can cause anal cancer to spread.