Anal cancer is a tumor, usually malignant, at the end of the gastrointestinal tract. This means that those who have unprotected anal intercourse are particularly vulnerable.
Characteristics of anal cancer
As already mentioned, anal cancer is a malignant tumor that can be located at the edges or in the colon canal. In Polish medical statistics, this disease ranks seventh in cancer in women and the sixth in men. In most cases, people over 50 are affected.
At this point, it is important to emphasize that anal cancer can not be mistaken for rectal cancer, since they are two completely different sections of the digestive system.
What influences the development of anal cancer
It has not yet been fully explored what are the causes of anal cancer. However, factors that increase the risk of occurrence have been identified. First, it is a largely genetic disease. Genetic diseases that increase the risk of anal cancer include familial polyposis, Lynch syndrome, and Gardner’s syndrome.
In addition, as already mentioned, the disease is promoted by anal intercourse, which allows infections with HPV that promotes tumors (human papillomavirus).
Risk factors include smoking, overweight and poor or high-fat diet, alcohol and red meat, low fruit and vegetables.
Symptoms of anal cancer
Anal cancer is usually asymptomatic in the first stage. The following symptoms may occur in the advanced stage of the disease:
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Feeling of incomplete emptying
• Abdominal and perineal pain
• There may also be cramps in the stomach.
However, the symptoms mentioned above need not be cancer, because with similar symptoms, heavy but not fatal hemorrhoids manifest themselves. However, if stomach pain or intestinal changes occur, the doctor should be consulted because hemorrhoids and anal cancer may appear together.
The doctor examines the patient for proctological exams, that is, with the finger. If he detects changes in the shape of nodules, he will send the patient to the next examination, such as retoscopy and colonoscopy with sampling. The sample is then submitted to histopathological examination. However, MRI is the most accurate examination.
The most common metastases of anal cancer are found in the perianal lymph nodes. There are also distant metastases, most commonly after the liver or lung, but only in 15% of patients.
Treatment of anal cancer
To remove the tumor, the anus is explored. In modern medicine, 3 types of this treatment are performed: local excision, excision of the remainder of the anal sphincter and abdominoperineal resection, which requires an artificial intestinal outflow. The latter method consists in the fact that a portion of the intestine through the surgically operated opening in the abdominal wall serves for the discharge of the excretions – with an ostomy bag, which is also applied. The method chosen by the doctor determines the size of the tumor, the distance from the anal border and the depth of infiltration.
The patient in the advanced stage of the disease is treated with radiation therapy, which aims to destroy the heart of the tumor. After surgery, chemotherapy is started.