Anal cancer develops in the anus. Anal cancer is not to be mistaken for colorectal cancer which is much more common. The anus is the end part of the large intestines which is usually about four centimeters long. This is where the solid wastes come out from the body. Anal cancer is very rare, and it occurs mostly to women than men. Abnormal changes that occur in the anus are oftentimes harmless in the early stages but may eventually develop into cancer. According to Cheyenne Corbett, LMFT, “Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are a rare breed in cancer care settings. However, their skill set lends itself perfectly to working within this environment.”
Types of Anal Cancer
The variations of anal cancer depend on the kind of anal cells in which ancer developed, according to cancercenter.com, and in verbatim:
- Squamous cell carcinoma is located in the outer lining of the anal canal. It is the most common type of anal cancer.
- Cloacogenic carcinoma starts between the outer part of the anus and the lower part of the rectum.
- Adenocarcinoma occurs in the glands that produce mucous located beneath the anal lining.
- Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that can appear in the perianal skin, which is around the anus.
- Melanoma starts in cells that produce pigment for the skin or anal lining
Signs and Symptoms of Anal Cancer
Common symptoms of anal cancer may include:
- Bloody stools
- Random occurrence of diarrhea, constipation and thinning of stools
- Lumps around the anus mostly mistaken for hemorrhoids
- Mucous-like anal discharge
- Anal itching
- Anal pain
- Fecal incontinence
- Discharge from the anus that is jelly-like
- Lower back pain in women (can be a sign of a tumor that creates pressure on the vagina)
- Vaginal dryness
Causes of Anal Cancer
Though experts cannot really pinpoint the causes anal cancer, there are a number of risk factors that may cause this disease. According to June C. Foss, LMFT, “There are so many things that cancer patients need to communicate to their loved ones. These range from sharing the diagnosis, what the treatment will look like, specifics about how the treatment is affecting them, where they need help, where/when they need privacy, financial decisions, end-of-life planning and decision making, etc.”
- HPV (human papilloma virus) – HPV is closely linked to anal cancer. Majority of patients with anal cancer are infected with HPV in the anal area.
- Sexual partner numbers – Individuals who have had more sexual partners than others have higher risks of being infected with HPV, which is the primary risk factor for anal cancer.
- Receptive anal intercourse – individuals who practice anal intercourse have a higher risk of acquiring anal cancer.
- Other cancers – women and men who have had cancer in their reproductive area (vaginal or cervical cancer for women, and penile cancer for men) are more prone to developing anal cancer.
- Age – as the case for most cancers, the older we get, the higher the risk of developing cancer.
- Weak immune system – Individuals with HIV or AIDS and patients who have had organ transplants; individuals who takes immunosuppressant medications are more at risk of having anal cancer.
If you think you are at risk of anal cancer, visit your doctor for a consultation. “The most important advice for sensitively suggesting that someone might benefit from therapy is to both select the right moment for it and to foster a safe environment while doing so,” suggests Marie Fang, PsyD.