Anal cancer symptoms: Five signs of the deadly disease you need to know

Anal cancer is diagnosed around 1,300 times per year in the UK, according to the NHS. The sooner any type of cancer is diagnosed, the stronger the chances of survival. What are the five signs of the disease you need to be aware of?

First, what is anal cancer? When cells in the anus begin to grow and divide at an uncontrollable rate, that’s anal cancer.

The anus is a tube – where faeces exit the body – that is part of the large bowel.

It’s roughly about 3cm long and includes the transitional zone, anal canal and anal margin.


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The transitional zone is where the rectum meets the anal canal.

Then the anal canal connects the rectum to the anus, and the anal margin contains muscles called anal sphincters – that control your bowel movements.

Cancerous cells can grow in any of these three areas belonging to the anus.

Cancer Research UK state anal margin cancers are more common in men than women.

The disease can begin in different types of cells within the anus: squamous cell cancers, adenocarcinoma and melanoma.

Squamous cell cancers

Cancer infects these cells that make up the lining of the anal canal.


Cancer invades the glandular cells that are responsible for the mucus that helps to move faces along the anus.


Cancer that begins in the skin cells called melanocytes.

The NHS lists five symptoms of anal cancer – regardless of which cell it begins in, or which part of the anus it affects.

Rectal bleeding is one sign you may have the deadly disease.

Another sign is itching and pain around the anus.

Moreover, you may find small lumps around the anus if you have the condition.


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And there may be a discharge of mucus coming from the anus too.

Lastly, you may experience bowel incontinence – which is a loss of bowel control.

These symptoms are similar to piles (haemorrhoids) and anal fissures (small tears or sores).

For a doctor to determine whether or not you have anal cancer, examinations will be carried out.

Referral to a hospital may see you undergo a sigmoidoscopy.

This is when a thin, flexible tube with a small camera and light is inserted into your bottom to check for any abnormalities.

Additionally, a biopsy may be taken where a small tissue sample is taken so it can be observed in a laboratory under a microscope.

Do discuss any symptoms with your doctor as soon as they appear.

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