Anal cancer is a relatively rare type of cancer that occurs in the anal canal, which is the short tube at the end of the rectum through which stool passes. While there are various causes of anal cancer, infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) is a significant risk factor. It’s important to note that not everyone infected with HPV will develop anal cancer, and many cases of HPV infection resolve on their own without causing any symptoms or long-term effects. However, persistent HPV infection can lead to changes in the cells of the anus that may progress to cancer over time.
The symptoms of anal cancer can vary from person to person, but here are some common signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of this condition:
- Anal bleeding: This may occur during or after a bowel movement and can present as bright red blood on the toilet paper or in the toilet bowl.
- Anal pain or discomfort: Persistent pain or a feeling of pressure in the anal area may be experienced. This pain can sometimes be mistaken for hemorrhoids.
- Changes in bowel habits: Persistent changes in bowel movements, such as increased frequency or constipation, may occur.
- Anal itching: Constant itching in and around the anus can be a symptom of anal cancer, though it can also be caused by other conditions such as hemorrhoids or an anal fissure.
- Unexplained weight loss: Significant and unintentional weight loss may occur in some cases of anal cancer.
- Skin changes: The appearance of a lump or a mass around the anus, or changes in the color or texture of the skin in the anal area, may indicate anal cancer.
It’s important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by other conditions as well, such as hemorrhoids or anal fissures. However, if you experience any of these symptoms and they persist or worsen over time, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.