Anal Cancer

Anal cancer facts*

*Anal cancer facts medical author: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

  • Anal cancer is a disease where cancer cells develop in the tissues of the anus.
  • Risk factors include age over 50, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, many sexual partners, receptive anal sex, cigarette smoking, and frequent anal redness, swelling, and soreness.
  • Signs and symptoms of anal cancer include anal bleeding, pain or pressure in the anal area, anal itching or discharge, lumps near the anus, and a change in bowel habits.
  • Diagnostic tests include a history and physical exam, digital rectal exam, anoscopy, proctoscopy, ultrasound, and biopsy.
  • The cause(s) of anal cancer are not known, but researchers suggest that HPV infections, a weakened immune system, and/or smoking may participate in causing anal cancer.
  • The following affect the prognosis of anal cancer: the size, location, and stage of the tumor; the degree of spread to the lymph nodes; recurrence; and HIV status of the patient.
  • There are 5 stages of anal cancer (0 to IV, with IV as the most advanced); chest X-ray and MRI, CT, and PET scans are used to help determine the stage.
  • Recurrent anal cancer is anal cancer that has returned after treatments.
  • Treatments for anal cancer may include radiation and/or chemotherapy and surgery; some patients may qualify for clinical trials.
  • Treatment options vary for patients that have different stages of anal cancer as more advanced stages usually require more aggressive treatments.
  • Recurrent anal cancer usually requires several types of aggressive treatments.
  • Call 1-800-4-CANCER to get more information about anal cancer from the National Cancer Institute.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/12/2015

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Get information about rectal bleeding.

Anal Cancer Symptoms and Signs

Rectal Bleeding

Rectal bleeding (known medically as hematochezia) refers to passage of bright red blood from the anus, often mixed with stool and/or blood clots. Most rectal bleeding comes from the colon, rectum, or anus. The color of the blood during rectal bleeding often depends on the location of the bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.