Anal cancer is uncommon, but you shouldn’t ignore potential symptoms like rectal bleeding. If you’re concerned about your symptoms or want to undergo screening for anal cancer, the highly skilled team at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford can help. New England’s largest specialist colorectal practice has convenient offices in Bloomfield, South Windsor, and Plainville, Connecticut. Call the office nearest you today to schedule a consultation or book an appointment online.
Anal cancer is a fairly rare type of cancer that develops in the anal canal. The anal canal is the short section between your rectum and anus.
Symptoms of anal cancer include:
Anal cancer is a result of a genetic mutation in the anal cells. This mutation causes healthy cells to change into cancer cells. The cancer cells multiply quickly and don’t die like normal, healthy cells. As they build up, a growth or tumor develops. These cancer cells may spread to other parts of the body.
Anal cancer only rarely spreads to other areas like the liver and lungs. However, when it does spread, it’s very hard to treat.
The most likely cause of anal cancer is a sexually transmitted disease. HPV (human papillomavirus) is present in most people who get anal cancer. There are many distinct strains of HPV, some of which cause cervical cancer and genital warts. The team can screen for abnormal cells with an anal pap smear and potentially catch lesions while they are premalignant.
If you have multiple sexual partners and frequent anal intercourse, your risk of contracting HPV and anal cancer increases; your risk of developing anal cancer also increases as you get older. Most patients diagnosed with anal cancer are over 50. Smoking is another risk factor that can make you more prone to anal cancer.
If you take immunosuppressive drugs because you had an organ transplant or you have HIV, it can diminish your body’s ability to fight infections, which can also increase your chances of developing anal cancer.
Treatment usually involves a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells, although they also kill other fast-growing cells. This can lead to side effects like hair loss, nausea, and vomiting.
Radiation therapy uses X-ray and proton energy to kill cancer cells. There’s also a risk of side effects like soreness and tissue damage in the anal canal. Chemotherapy and radiation work well together and are typically used in a five- or six-week treatment cycle for anal cancer.
The Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford team also excels in surgery for anal cancer. They can remove very small tumors, taking some surrounding tissue to ensure they get all the cancer cells.
If your cancer is more advanced and isn’t responding to chemotherapy and radiation, you might need to have an abdominoperineal (APR) resection. This involves removing your anal canal, rectum, and some of your colon. You then need to wear a colostomy bag to collect waste.
If you have any symptoms of anal cancer, don’t delay. Call Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford today or book an appointment online.