Anal cancer is one of the most uncommon malignancy which effects a large number of people. It begins on the anus, within the opening of the end of the rectum. The American Society of Cancer has estimated that there are about 8,200 cases which have been diagnosed in 2017. It has been estimated that there have been about 1,100 deaths in one year alone, as a result of anal cancer.
It has been estimated that about half of cases are diagnosed at a stage where the malignancy has already spread beyond the primary starting position, whereas about 13% to 25% of patients are diagnosed after the cancer has already spread to their lymph nodes. About 10% of people are diagnosed, after the cancer has metastasized or if it has spread to other distant organs. If the cancer is found in its early stages it is easily treatable. The overall survival rate after diagnosis is five years for most is about 60% for men and about 71% for women.
Those aged over 60 are more likely to develop symptoms which match anal cancer. Prior to this age, anal cancer is more common in men aged 35, but after the age of 50 it is more common within women. For single men the possibility of getting anal cancer is six times higher as compared to men who are married.
Anal Cancer Diagnosis:
Anal cancer is usually detected by a health care professional, during a routine rectal exam, or during some kind of minor procedure, such as a hemorrhoid etc, or during more invasive procedures like a proctoscopy, an enodrectal ultrasound or an anoscopy. If a doctor suspects cancer, a biopsy is carried out to examine the specimen, under a pathologist. The staging workup includes a number of tests, including a pelvic and abdominal CT scan, a pelvic MRI for the assessing the presence of lymph nodes, a chest x-ray, PET scans as well as liver-function studies.
Anal Cancer Symptoms:
There are a number of symptoms of anal cancer; however the most common is bleeding. Some symptoms include;
- A change in bowel habits
- Experiencing pain of pressure within the anal area
- Finding a lump near the anus
- Experiencing unusual discharge’s from the anus
Anal Cancer Grades:
Grading is the process through which doctors distinguish the likeliness of how fast a cancer may grow. It is divided into 3 grades.
- Grade 1 well differentiated.
- Grade 2 (Moderate) moderately differentiated.
- Grade 3 (High grade) poorly differentiated.
Anal Cancer Stages:
Cancers of all types are mostly staged with the TNM staging system; however the Duke’s system is often employed as well. The stage is divided into three stage categories. It includes;
T stands for tumor.
N stands for nodes.
M stands for metastases.
This staging system mainly deals with 3 major questions;
- Whether or not the size of the tumor has grown within the affected area?
- Whether or not the cancer has progressed towards lymph nodes located nearby?
- Whether or not the cancer has spread to surrounding areas of the body?
Anal Cancer Causes:
Anal cancer can be caused as a result of the following conditions, they include;
- An HPV infection
- Lowered immunity
- Patients who smoke
- Those who have had previous cancers of the vulva, cervix or the vagina are at an increased risk of developing a cancer of the anus
- Those with previous or existing HIV infections are at an increased risk of developing cancer
- Those who have multiple sexual partners are at an increased risk of having cancer
- Women and those of African ethnicity are at increased risk of developing anal cancer
Anal Cancer Treatment:
The primary therapy of anal cancer is through chemotherapy or radiation. Surgery is usually reserved for only those patients who fail to show any progress from therapy.