What is Anal Cancer?
There are several really good anal cancer information/support websites and we recommend that you read through a variety of them (see Useful Links under the tab MORE).
What is Anal Cancer
Anal Cancer is a type of cancer which arises from the anus, the distal orifice of the gastrointestinal tract. It is a distinct entity from the more common colorectal cancer. The risk factors, clinical progression, staging, and treatment are all different. Anal cancer is typically a squamous cell carcinoma that arises near the squamocolumnar junction. Other types of anal carcinoma are adenocarcinoma, lymphoma, sarcoma or melanoma.
Anal Cancer incidence is on the rise...especially amongst heterosexual, HIV Negative women.
What Are the Risk Factors:
There are several factors that have been linked to anal cancer. They include but are not limited to the following:
*Men having Sex with Men (MSM) ie anal intercourse...especially if HIV positive *Highest Risk Group*
* Sexual activity: Having multiple sex partners due to the increased risk of exposure to the HPV virus, notably HPV-16.
*Infection with HIV
*Benign anal lesions ( inflammatory bowel disease, hemorrhoids, fistulae or cicatrices)
*Prior history of Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN) with HPV...even 20+ years ago
*Prior history of Anal Intraepithelial Neoplasia (AIN)
*History of genital warts (chondylomata) ie HPV infection
*History of anal intercourse...but NOT a required factor!
*Immune-supressed patients ie organ transplant recipients, IBD patients...as a result of their immune supression medications
What Are the Symptoms:
Symptoms of anal cancer include but not limited to: bloating, change in bowel habits, a lump near the anus, rectal bleeding, itching, discharge, and pain.
What is HPV:
HPV is short for human papilloma virus. HPVs are a large group or related viruses. Each HPV virus in the group is given a number, which is called an HPV type. Most HPV types cause warts on the skin of the arms, chest, hands, and feet. Other types are found only on the body's mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are the moist surface layers that line organs and parts of the body that open to the outside, such as the vagina, anus, mouth, and throat. These HPV types found on mucous membranes do not occur on the skin. They are sometimes called "genital" HPV. Genital HPV is NOT the same as HIV or herpes.
Some types of genital HPV can cause warts on or around the genitals and anus of both men and women. In women, warts may also appear on the cervix and in the vagina. Because these genital warts very rarely grow into cancer, they are called "low-risk" viruses.
Other types of genital HPV have been linked with cancers in both men and women. These types are called" high-risk" because they can cause cancer. Doctors worry more about high-grade changes and pre-cancers, because they are more likely to grow into cancers over time. Common high-risk HPV types include HPV 16 and 18.
Infection with HPV is very common, and in most people the body is able to clear the infection on its own, but sometimes, the infection comes back. Chronic infection, especially when it's cauused by certain high-risk HPV types, can cause cancer over time.
HPV can be passed from one person to another during the skin-to-skin contact that occurs with sex. The main way HPV is spread is through sex, including vaginal, anal, and even oral sex.