WHAT IS ANAL CANCER?
Anal cancer (anal tumor) is a rare form of cancer that affects the tissues of the anus, which is the opening at the end of the digestive tract. This type of cancer develops when the cells in the anal canal begin to grow abnormally and form a tumor.
The main cause of anal cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a common sexually transmitted infection. However, other risk factors include a weakened immune system, a history of sexually transmitted infections, and certain types of sexual behavior.
Symptoms of anal cancer can include rectal bleeding, pain or discomfort during bowel movements, and changes in bowel habits. Treatment options for anal cancer typically include a combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery.
Early detection and prompt treatment are essential for a successful outcome. If you suspect that you may have anal cancer, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
ANAL CANCER: FAST FACTS
- It’s estimated that over 91 percent of anal tumor cases are caused by human papilloma virus (HPV).
- The risk of having an anal cancer is slightly higher in women than men.
- More females than males are diagnosed with anal tumor each year.
- About 5,530 women and 2,770 men are newly diagnosed with anal cancer annually in the United States.
- Annual anal cancer diagnoses are comprised of roughly 1,000 women and 480 men in the United Kingdom.
- Worldwide, human papillomavirus (HPV) causes 5 percent of all cancer.
- In addition to anal cancer, HPV also causes vaginal, penile, cervical, head and neck cancers.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ANAL TUMOR?
Anal cancer are of the following types —
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC):
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is second most common form of skin cancer. It occurs due to the uncontrolled and abnormal growth of cells arising from the squamous cells in the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of human skin.
Sometimes, it is also called cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC). Approx. 90 percent of anal tumors are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and result from human papilloma virus (HPV) most of the time.
Malignant melanoma cancer develops from pigment-containing cells.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC):
BCCs arise in the skin’s basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin). Basal cell carcinoma cancer occurs in the area around the anus. More than 4 million cases of BCC cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States.
This cancer occurs either in the lining of the anus near the rectum or in the anal glands that produce mucous.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ANAL CANCER?
Symptoms of anal cancer may include —
- Bleeding from the anus
- Lump near the anus
- Pain in the anal area
- Anal itching
- Discharge from the anus
- Changes in bowel movements, including diarrhea and constipation
Women may also experience the following symptoms —
- Lower back pain as the tumor presses on the vagina
- Vaginal dryness
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS OF ANAL CANCER?
Risk factors of anal tumor may include —
Human Papillomavirus (HPV):
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most significant risk factor for anal cancer. HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection, and some strains of the virus can lead to the development of cancer.
People who have anal sex or who have had multiple sexual partners are at increased risk of HPV infection and, therefore, anal cancer.
Week Immune System:
Having a weakened immune system due to conditions such as HIV/AIDS or organ transplantation increases the risk of anal cancer. The immune system plays a crucial role in fighting off infections and cancer cells, and when it is weakened, the body may be less able to control the growth of abnormal cells.
People with HIV/AIDS are especially susceptible to developing anal cancer, with rates of the disease up to 80 times higher than in the general population.
Sexually Transmitted Infections:
A history of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as herpes or chlamydia, can increase the risk of anal cancer. These infections can cause inflammation and damage to the tissues of the anus, which may increase the risk of cancer development.
Age may also be a factor, as anal cancer is more common in people over the age of 50. This may be because the immune system becomes less effective as we age, or because older people are more likely to have other risk factors for anal cancer, such as a history of HPV infection or smoking.
Multiple Sexual Partners:
Having multiple sex partners increases the risk of contracting human papillomavirus (HPV), which, in turn, boosts the risk of anal tumors.
Receptive Anal Sex:
Engaging in receptive anal sex without protection can increase the risk of anal cancer. This is because anal sex can cause trauma to the lining of the anus, making it more susceptible to infection and cancer.
Men and women that have anal sex are at a higher risk of developing this cancer. Men who have sex with men and who are HIV-positive are up to 90 times more likely to develop this cancer as compared to normal individuals.
Smokers are also at a higher risk of having anal or other cancers. Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products increases the risk of anal cancer. Tobacco smoke contains a number of carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances, that can damage the cells of the anus and increase the risk of cancer development.
Having a personal history of cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancer may increase the risk of anal cancer. These cancers are also associated with HPV infection, and people who have had these types of cancer may be more likely to develop anal cancer as well.
Certain genetic conditions, such as Lynch syndrome, can increase the risk of anal cancer. Lynch syndrome is an inherited disorder that increases the risk of a number of different types of cancer, including anal cancer.
Women who have had vaginal or cervical cancer, and men who have had penile cancer are at higher risk of developing anal cancer.
Benign Anal Lesions:
Irritable bowel disease (IBD), fistulae, hemorrhoids, and cicatrices are all conditions that affect the anus and rectum and have been linked to an increased risk of anal cancer.
Irritable bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term that encompasses two main conditions: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both of these conditions involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, which can cause damage to the tissues of the anus and increase the risk of cancer. People with IBD are thought to be up to 30 times more likely to develop anal cancer than the general population.
Fistulae are abnormal connections between two parts of the body, such as the anus and the rectum. They can be caused by a number of different factors, including infection, trauma, or surgery. Fistulae can increase the risk of anal cancer because they can cause chronic inflammation and damage to the tissues of the anus and rectum.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower rectum and anus, and are a common condition that affects many people at some point in their lives. While hemorrhoids themselves are not a direct cause of anal cancer, they can cause chronic irritation and inflammation of the anus and rectum, which may increase the risk of cancer over time.
Cicatrices, or scar tissue, can form in the anus and rectum as a result of injury, surgery, or other trauma. This scar tissue can increase the risk of anal cancer because it can cause chronic inflammation and damage to the tissues of the anus and rectum.
It is important to note that having any of these conditions does not necessarily mean that you will develop anal cancer, but they may increase your risk. If you have any of these conditions, it is important to discuss your risk factors with your healthcare provider and to be vigilant about any changes in your symptoms or health. Regular screening for anal cancer may also be recommended for people with these conditions.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE AN ANAL TUMOR?
Diagnosing anal cancer typically involves a series of tests and procedures to evaluate the anus and surrounding tissues. The first step in the diagnostic process is usually a physical exam, during which a healthcare provider will examine the anus for any signs of abnormal growths or lesions.
They may also perform a digital rectal exam to check for any lumps or masses in the rectum. Additional tests may include a biopsy, which involves taking a small sample of tissue from the affected area to be analyzed for the presence of cancer cells.
Other imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, may be ordered to assess the extent of the cancer and determine if it has spread to other body areas. Blood tests may also be conducted to check for specific markers associated with anal cancer.
It is important to seek prompt medical attention if you are experiencing symptoms of anal cancer or have any risk factors, as early detection can greatly improve the chances of successful treatment. If you are concerned about anal cancer, speak with your healthcare provider about your options for screening and diagnosis.
HOW TO PREVENT ANAL TUMORS?
Anal cancer is rare. But some precautions may help to reduce its further risk. Preventions may include —
- Practice safe sex by using condoms or dental dams to reduce the risk of contracting HPV, which is a common cause of anal cancer.
- Get vaccinated against HPV, which can provide protection against certain strains of the virus that can cause cancer.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Practice good hygiene by keeping the anal area clean and dry, and avoiding the use of harsh soaps or other irritants.
- Attend regular check-ups with a healthcare provider and report any unusual symptoms, such as bleeding or pain during bowel movements, to your doctor.
- Consider getting screened for anal cancer if you have risk factors such as a history of sexually transmitted infections or a weakened immune system.
- Avoid engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors, such as having multiple sexual partners or engaging in anal intercourse without protection.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS FOR ANAL TUMORS?
The treatment for anal cancer really depends upon several factors, the precise location of cancer, the size of the tumor, and the general health of the patient.
Typically the doctors work together with the individual to determine the best possible treatment plan. There are mainly 3 types of treatment for anal cancer, they’re —
The kind of surgery depends on the stage of cancer. Early-stage cancer or situ cancer has been treated by removing these cancerous cells together with a little field of the surrounding tissue mass. Thereafter, the patient really needs regular follows ups for screening and following removal of reproductive tissues.
A portion of the tissue is removed for biopsy patients in later phases of cancer undergo an operation. Thereafter radiation and chemotherapy are given in conjunction. Patients who’ve combination therapy invariably aren’t subjected to treatment through major surgery.
Nevertheless, patients who can’t have chemotherapy and radiotherapy can have to undergo major surgery. Typically this happens when this cancer is still current after the first therapy or there is a relapse after this therapy is finished.
In the Event the cancer is recurrent, the individual may have to experience a colostomy where the anus, rectum and part of the colon are removed, and an opening is created in the gut so that feces could be collected in a bag. Lymph nodes are removed in this procedure.
This treatment entails using high-energy X-rays to kill this cancer. The kind of radiation is called external beam radiotherapy. Nevertheless, in times radiation can be given via implants this kind of therapy is known as internal radiotherapy or brachytherapy.
This therapy has adverse effects which include fatigue, stomach problems, skin reaction, rectal irritation, and discomfort when passing feces. Occasionally, scar tissue can form and this could cause problems with bowel movements.
The majority of the adverse effects disappear when the therapy is over.
Here drugs are utilized to kill the cancer cells. The drug is intravenously fed to the bloodstream and targets only cancer cells. This treatment is extremely effective when along with radiotherapy. The advantage of the conjunction ensures that lower doses of radiation have been used and the likelihood of destroying this cancerous tissue completely is very high.
Patients who’re HIV positive are provided low doses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, however, it depends upon how badly the immune system is compromised by the HIV. Adverse effects of chemotherapy include fatigue, the possibility of infection, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.
These adverse effects are dependent on the general health of the individual and usually disappear when the therapy is completed.