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Anal cancer

Description:
Anal cancer is an uncommon type of cancer that occurs in the anal canal. The anal canal is a short tube at the end of our rectum through which stool leaves your body. It affects the very end of the large bowel.

Anal cancer can cause signs and symptoms such as rectal bleeding and anal pain.

Most people with anal cancer are treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. Though combining anal cancer treatments increases the chance of a cure, the combined treatments also increase the risk of side effects.

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Symptoms:
Anal cancer signs and symptoms include:

  • Bleeding from the anus or rectum (rectal bleeding)
    *Pain in the area of the anus
    *A mass or growth in the anal canal
    *Anal itching & pain
  • A discharge of mucus from the anus
    *Loss of bowel control (bowel incontinence)

However, some people with anal cancer don’t have any symptoms.

If one develops any of the above symptoms, It is wise to consult the GP. While they’re unlikely to be caused by anal cancer, it’s best to get them checked out.

Causes:
Anal cancer forms when a genetic mutation turns normal, healthy cells into abnormal cells. Healthy cells grow and multiply at a set rate, eventually dying at a set time. Abnormal cells grow and multiply out of control, and they don’t die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a mass (tumor). Cancer cells invade nearby tissues and can separate from an initial tumor to spread elsewhere in the body (metastasize).

Anal cancer is closely related to a sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus (HPV). Evidence of HPV is detected in the majority of anal cancers. HPV is thought to be the most common cause of anal cancers

Risk factors:
Several factors have been found to increase the risk of anal cancer, including:

*Older age.: Most cases of anal cancer occur in people age 50 and older.

*Many sexual partners.: People who have many sexual partners over their lifetimes have a greater risk of anal cancer.

*Anal sex.: People who engage in receptive anal sex have an increased risk of anal cancer.

*Smoking.: Smoking cigarettes may increase your risk of anal cancer.

*History of cancer.: Those who have had cervical, vulvar or vaginal cancer have an increased risk of anal cancer.

*Human papillomavirus (HPV).: HPV infection increases your risk of several cancers, including anal cancer and cervical cancer. HPV infection is a sexually transmitted infection that can also cause genital warts.

*Drugs or conditions that suppress your immune system.: People who take drugs to suppress their immune systems (immunosuppressive drugs), including people who have received organ transplants, may have an increased risk of anal cancer. HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — suppresses the immune system and increases the risk of anal cancer.

Complications:
Anal cancer rarely spreads (metastasizes) to distant parts of the body. Only a small percentage of tumors are found to have spread, but those that do are especially difficult to treat. Anal cancer that metastasizes most commonly spreads to the liver and the lungs.

Diagnosis:
To diagnose the following tests may have to be done::

*Sigmoidoscopy – where a thin, flexible tube with a small camera and light is inserted into your bottom to check for any abnormalities

*Roctoscopy – where the inside of your rectum is examined using a hollow tube-like instrument (proctoscope) with a light on the end

*Biopsy – where a small tissue sample is removed from your anus during a sigmoidoscopy or proctoscopy so it can be examined in a laboratory under a microscope.

Treatments:
The main MODERN treatments used for anal cancer are:

*Chemoradiation – a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy

*Surgery – to remove a tumour or a larger section of bowel
In cases where the cancer has spread and can’t be cured, chemotherapy alone may be considered to help relieve symptoms. This is known as palliative care.

Prevention:
There is no sure way to prevent anal cancer. To reduce your risk of anal cancer:

*Practice safer sex. Practicing safe sex may help prevent HPV and HIV, two sexually transmitted viruses that may increase your risk of anal cancer. If you choose to have anal sex, use condoms.

*Get vaccinated against HPV. A vaccine to protect against HPV infection is available. It’s recommended for adolescents, including both boys and girls, but may be given to adults, too.

*Stop smoking. Smoking increases your risk of anal cancer. Don’t start smoking. Stop if you currently smoke & reduce drinking alcohol.

*Exercise regularly, practice Joga (meditatiion or pranayam- breathing exercise daily) :

Prognosis:
The prognosis of anal cancer depends on how advanced the condition is when it’s diagnosed. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the better the outlook.

Compared with many other types of cancer, the outlook for anal cancer is generally better because treatment is often very effective. Around 66 out of 100 people (66%) with anal cancer will live at least five years after diagnosis, and many will live much longer than this. There are about 300 deaths from anal cancer each year in the UK.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anal-cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354146
https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/cancer/cancer-types-in-adults/anal-cancer

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