Anal Cancer

At a Glance

  • Anal cancer is a very rare type of cancer in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the anus.
  • Risk factors age over 50 years old, infection human papillomavirus, having many sexual partners, having receptive anal intercourse, frequent anal redness, swelling, and soreness, having anal fistulas (abnormal openings), smoking.
  • Though anal cancer is rare, it’s still important to pay attention for the following signs and symptoms: 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.
  • If diagnosed early, treatment of anal cancer is highly successful by one of three methods: surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.
It is estimated that by the end of 2015, in the United States, 7,270 new cases may be diagnosed and 1,010 persons would die from anal cancer.

Anatomy of the Anus

The anus is the end of the large intestine, below the rectum, through which stool leaves the body. 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 to let stool pass out of the body. The anal canal, the part of the anus between the rectum and the anal opening, is about 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.

Risk factors

Risk factors include the following:
  • Being over 50 years old.
  • Being infected with human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Having many sexual partners.
  • Having receptive anal intercourse (anal sex).
  • Frequent anal redness, swelling, and soreness.
  • Having anal fistulas (abnormal openings).
  • Smoking cigarettes.

Signs and Symptoms

  • 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.
Contact Diablo Valley Oncology to request an appointment with our San Francisco Bay Area cancer specialists if you are experiencing signs or symptoms associated with anal cancer or have recently been diagnosed with anal cancer for a second opinion.