Anal Cancer

Anal cancer is a rare malignancy that starts in the anus. 

About half of all anal cancers are diagnosed before the malignancy has spread beyond the primary site, while about a third are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes only and 10 percent are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to distant organs.

When it is found early, anal cancer is highly curable.

According to the American Cancer Society, the overall five-year survival rate following diagnosis of anal cancer is 65 percent.

When the cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stage, five-year survival is 82 percent. If it has spread to surrounding lymph nodes, five-year survival drops to 60 percent. And when it has spread to distant organs, about one in five patients lives for five years or more.

In some cases, there are no symptoms associated with anal cancer, but in about half of patients bleeding occurs and is often the first sign of the disease. Because anal itching can also be a symptom of the cancer, many people initially attribute their bleeding and itching to hemorrhoids.

Other signs and symptoms of anal cancer can include:

  • Pain or pressure in the anal area
  • Unusual discharges from the anus
  • Lump near the anus
  • Change in bowel habits

Anal cancer can usually be detected during a routine digital rectal exam in the office or during a minor procedure, such as removal of what is believed to be a hemorrhoid.

Standard treatments for anal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.