Anal cancer is a rare type of cancer that develops in the anal canal. This is a short tube at the end of the gastrointestinal tract, through which stool leaves the body. This disease leads to signs and symptoms such as rectal bleeding, anal pain, anal itching, pain in the area of the anus and so on. The exact cause of this disease isn’t known yet. However, studies have shown that genetics play an important in the development of the disease. Genetic mutation turns healthy cells into abnormal cells. Healthy cells, grow and grow after a specific period, while unhealthy and cancer cells tend to grow, and multiply out of control, and don’t die. The cancer cells aggregate together to form tumours. These cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body. Some risk factors have also been identified. Some of them include old age, anal sex, history of cancer, infection and so on. Some of the ways of preventing the disease include vaccination, avoiding smoking, practising safe sex and so on. Some of the common treatment procedures include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and so on. Surgery could be done in the initial phase of the disease to remove a tumour. Also, surgery can be done for late-stage anal cancers. This is done as a last resort when the patient has not responded to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Exosomes is also a potential treatment option for anal cancer.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Anal Cancer?
Patients affected by anal cancer do present with some signs and symptoms. These symptoms do not present until late in the progression of the disease. Below are some of them;
- Bleeding: Patients do lose a lot of blood. This occurs as a result of bleeding from the anus, or the rectum.
- Anaemia: This is a condition in which an individual doesn’t have enough haemoglobin in the body. This occurs because of the consistent loss of blood through bleeding. The patient might present with iron deficiency anaemia.
- Tumour growth: Patient might feel a growth in his/her anal canal. This might affect the way patients pass out stool. Basically, the tumour growth makes defecation more difficult.
- Pain: Patient does complain of pain in their anal canal. This is because of the presence of a tumour.
- Anal itching: This is also a common symptom of people affected by anal cancer.
When Should You See A Physician?
It’s important to go see a doctor when you start noticing the signs and symptoms above. As with all diseases, the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the better the prognosis.
What Are The Causes Of Anal Cancer?
The exact cause of anal cancer isn’t known yet, however, there are some factors that play a role in the development of the disease. An important factor is a genetics. This disease occurs when a genetic mutation alters a normal cell to an abnormal cell. These cells are malignant in nature and have the ability to proliferate faster than the normal cells. These cells would aggregate together to form a tumour. In addition, they also have the ability to spread from one part of the body to another. This process is known as metastasis. Anal cancer has also been closely linked to infections. The human papillomavirus is one such infection. According to studies, the human papillomavirus is detected in most cases of anal cancer. It has been identified as the most common cause of anal cancer.
What Are The Risk Factors For Anal Cancer?
Risk factors are conditions that increase the chances of developing anal cancer. Below are some of the factors;
- Age: Anal cancer tends to occur in older adults, especially people above the age of 50 years old.
- Anal sex: People who partake in anal sex have a higher chance of developing anal cancer
- Infection: Human papillomavirus infection increases the risk of having anal cancer significantly. This virus is a sexually transmitted disease. According to studies, the human papillomavirus is detected in most cases of anal cancer
- Smoking: Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of developing anal cancer. According to studies, cigarette smoking exposes the individual to about 64 carcinogens. These carcinogens increase the risk of developing anal cancer.
- Past medical history: Individuals who have been affected by a type of cancer in the past have a high risk of developing anal cancer. Some of this types of cancer include cervical and vaginal cancer.
How Is Anal Cancer Diagnosed?
Physicians make use of different procedures in the diagnosis of anal cancer. Below are some of them;
- Physical examination of the anal canal and rectum: The physician wears his glove, lubricates it and inserts his finger into the rectum. The physician feels for the presence of growths or any anything unusual.
- Ultrasound: The physician can also take an ultrasound of the anal canal. He’d do this by inserting a probe into the anal canal. This probe gives off high-energy, also known as sound waves, which bounce off tissues and organs to eventually create a picture.
- Biopsy: The doctor might also take a sample of the tissues to test in the laboratory. Doctors can determine if the tissues are cancerous or not.
How Is Anal Cancer Presently Treated?
The kind of treatment a patient would receive depends on some factors. Some of the factors include the size of a tumour, the staging, and the health status of the patient. However, some of the common treatment procedures include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and so on. Surgery could be done in the initial phase of the disease to remove a tumour. Also, surgery can be done for late-stage anal cancers. This is done as a last resort when the patient has not responded to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Stem Cell Therapy And Anal Cancer
Doctors are looking for ways to identify anal cancer stem cells. These cancer stem cells are responsible for the uncontrolled growth of the tumour cells. There is the hope that this would lead to the development of a permanent stem cell cure for the disease.
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