What Is Anal Cancer?

An uncommon condition, anal cancer occurs in the anal canal: a short section at the end of the rectum through which stool leaves the body.

Anal Cancer Risk Factors

Anal cancer cases have increased over the past several decades; which may be related to the increase in human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, and has been shown to be involved in the majority of anal cancer cases.

Other factors that increase risk include:

  • Older age
  • Numerous sexual partners
  • Anal sex
  • Smoking
  • Drug use
  • History of cancer or high-grade HPV infections of the cervix
  • History of other diseases that may suppress the immune system

While there is no way to absolutely prevent anal cancer, there are several ways to lower the risk. At Virginia Mason, patients at higher risk for developing anal cancer are meticulously screened for pre-cancerous changes at regular checkups with the most contemporary and high-yield techniques including anal cytology and high-resolution anoscopy (HRA).

Anal Cancer Symptoms

Although most anal cancer patients have no symptoms, some symptoms include:

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

These symptoms should be evaluated as soon as possible. When found early, anal cancer is highly treatable.

If you have questions or would like to make an appointment with one of our anal cancer specialists, please call (206) 341-1200.