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Cancer of the anus, also called anal cancer, is a rare type of cancer characterized primarily by anal bleeding and pain, especially during bowel movements. This type of cancer is more common in people over 50 years of age, who have anal sex or who are infected with the HPV and HIV virus.
According to tumor development, anal cancer can be classified into 4 main stages:
- Stage 1: anal cancer is less than 2 cm;
- Stage 2: the cancer is between 2 cm and 4 cm but is located only in the anal canal;
- Stage 3: the cancer is larger than 4 cm but has spread to nearby areas such as the bladder or urethra;
- Stage 4: the cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body.
According to the identification of the stage of the cancer, the oncologist or proctologist can indicate the best treatment to achieve the cure more easily, being most of the times necessary to perform chemo and radiotherapy.
Anal cancer symptoms
The main symptom of anal cancer is the presence of bright red blood in the stool and anal pain during a bowel movement, which can often make a person think that these symptoms are due to the presence of hemorrhoids. Other symptoms that are suggestive of anal cancer are:
- Swelling in the anal region;
- Alterations in intestinal transit;
- Itching or burning in the anus;
- Fecal incontinence;
- Presence of a lump or mass in the anus;
- Increased size of lymph nodes.
It is important that as soon as symptoms indicative of cancer appear in the anus, the person goes to the general practitioner or proctologist for tests to be carried out and thus the diagnosis can be made. See also other causes of anal pain.
Cancer of the anus is more common in people who are carriers of the HPV virus, have a history of cancer, use drugs that decrease the activity of the immune system, HIV carriers, are smokers, have multiple sexual partners and have anal sex. Therefore, if the person falls into this risk group and presents symptoms, it is important that a medical evaluation is carried out.
How is the diagnosis
The diagnosis of cancer of the anus is made by evaluating the symptoms described by the person and by means of tests that may be recommended by the doctor, such as digital rectal examination, proctoscopy and anoscopy, which can be painful, due to injury caused by cancer, and can be done under anesthesia, but they are important because their objective is to evaluate the anal region, identifying any alteration indicative of disease.Understand what an anoscopy is and how it is performed.
If any alteration suggestive of cancer is found during the examination, a biopsy may be requested to verify whether the alteration is benign or malignant. Also, in case the biopsy is indicative of cancer of the anus, the doctor may recommend performing an MRI to check the extent of cancer.
Treatment for anal cancer
Treatment for anal cancer should be done by a proctologist or oncologist and is usually done with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for 5 to 6 weeks, not requiring a hospital stay. Doctors may also recommend surgery to remove small anal tumors, especially in the first two stages of anal cancer, or to remove the anal canal, rectum, and a portion of the colon in more severe cases.
In more severe cases, when it is necessary to remove a large part of the intestine, the patient may need to have an ostomy, which is a bag that is on the belly and that receives the feces, which should be eliminated through the anus.The ostomy bag should be changed whenever it is full.
See how you can complement treatment with foods that fight cancer.