Anal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the anus. The anus is the end of the large intestine, below the rectum, through which stool (solid waste) leaves the body. Anal cancer cases have been increasing over several decades. Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is the major risk factor for anal cancer. The anus is formed partly from the outer skin layers of the body and partly from the intestine. Two ring-like muscles, called sphincter muscles, open and close the anal opening and let stool pass out of the body. The anal canal, the part of the anus between the rectum and the anal opening, is about 1-1½ inches long. The skin around the outside of the anus is called the perianal area. Tumors in this area are skin tumors, not anal cancer.
Signs & Systems
These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by anal cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:
- 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 habits.
There are three standard treatments. Your OHC doctor will help you determine the best care plan for you.
- Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.
- Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.
- Local resection: A surgical procedure in which the tumor is cut from the anus along with some of the healthy tissue around it. Local resection may be used if the cancer is small and has not spread. This procedure may save the sphincter muscles so the patient can still control bowel movements. Tumors that form in the lower part of the anus can often be removed with local resection.
- Abdominoperineal resection: A surgical procedure in which the anus, the rectum, and part of the sigmoid colon are removed through an incision made in the abdomen. The doctor sews the end of the intestine to an opening, called a stoma, made in the surface of the abdomen so body waste can be collected in a disposable bag outside of the body. This is called a colostomy. Lymph nodes that contain cancer may also be removed during this operation.