Did you know that anal cancer rates are on the rise in the U.S.?
While anal cancer is rare, we can’t turn a blind eye to it. You may feel that talking about anal cancer is uncomfortable, but it’s time to end the stigma and shame surrounding this disease. More and more people are being diagnosed with anal cancer every year, and those people need our support and understanding. Talking about anal cancer openly and honestly will help more people take the signs and symptoms of the disease seriously, while allowing patients and survivors to feel more comfortable sharing their stories instead of shying away from conversations about their experiences.
So, let’s start the discussion here. If you don’t know much about anal cancer and want to learn more, here’s a basic primer on the disease, its symptoms, its risk factors and treatments.
What is anal cancer?
Anal cancer occurs in the skin cells lining the anus, which is the opening at the very end of the digestive tract.
What are the most common symptoms of anal cancer?
In many cases, bleeding is the first sign of anal cancer. Other symptoms may include itching, pain or discharge, along with changes in bowel movements. These symptoms can also be attributed to benign conditions like hemorrhoids, but the only way to be sure, one way or the other, is to be checked out by your doctor.
What are the risk factors for anal cancer?
Most anal cancer cases are related to human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected area, often during sex. Black men are more likely to get HPV-linked anal cancer than other men, and white women are more likely to get HPV-related anal cancer than other women. People with HIV are also more likely to get anal cancer, as are smokers and those who have had cervical or vaginal cancer.
How is anal cancer treated?
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery are all treatment options for anal cancer, depending on the stage of the disease. The good news is that anal cancer is a highly treatable condition when detected early.