5 Symptoms of Anal Cancer, The Silent Disease

Although you may be embarrassed to see a specialist, going to the doctor at the first signs of anal cancer (or any other type of cancer) is fundamental.
5 Symptoms of Anal Cancer, The Silent Disease

Last update: 10 September, 2020

Information is always a valuable tool, especially when it comes to seeing a doctor in to obtain an early diagnosis. With that in mind, we want to tell you the main symptoms of anal cancer, a disease that advances silently.

You almost never hear about anal cancer. However, it exists and it’s important to be informed about the subject. That way, you can know when it’s time to see your doctor for a physical.

Anal cancer, the silent disease

Anal cancer doesn’t have high incidence rates such as lung or breast cancer. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a number of people who develop this disease.

According to the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC), anal cancer represents 1.9% of all digestive tract tumors. Even though this isn’t a very high number, you need to be aware of the fact that the rates of this disease have increased in recent years due to several risk factors, such as:

  • Tobacco use.
  • Longer life expectancy.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

The biggest problem with anal cancer is that it often progresses without any obvious symptoms. Also, people may not pay attention to symptoms and, therefore, neglect to seek the medical attention they require.

Also, people who have hemorrhoids often mistakenly attribute the bleeding and bulging to this problem rather than anal cancer. Therefore, they put off seeing a doctor and receiving a proper diagnosis.

Possible symptoms of anal cancer

We don’t often pay much attention to our bodily processes. We go to the bathroom without thinking to check the stool for irregularities or traces of blood.

The anus isn’t just where the body expels feces. We need to remember that it’s a part of our bowels, specifically the large intestine.

Its ring-shaped muscles are composed of multiple cells that can, for various reasons, undergo genetic changes that produce abnormal or cancerous cells. There are certain risk factors we can control, but as you know with cancer, it doesn’t all depend on healthy living.

There are other factors we can miss that, for whatever reason, cause the disease to develop. This is why it’s so important to be aware of the symptoms.

1. Bleeding

This is the main symptom you need to know about. Occasional bleeding may be caused by other factors, which is why getting a proper diagnosis is important.

  • Sometimes, the bleeding is caused by hemorrhoids, a simple infection, or a different disease that a specialist will be able to properly diagnose.
  • Therefore, it’s important to consult your doctor about this problem as soon as it appears.

“Rectorrhea is a clinical sign that consists of the emission of red blood through the anus in isolation or along with feces.”

Ordás and Panés

2. Feeling of fullness

Most patients who have developed anal cancer experience a feeling of fullness in the rectal area. It’s like there was a mass growing inside that causes them discomfort and even itching.

  • Sometimes, these masses impede intestinal transit in such a way that a person can even lose control of their anal muscles.
  • At first, it’s barely noticeable. In fact, most people wait for up to six months when the symptoms are more obvious before seeing their doctor.

3. The appearance of warts

Anal cancer often tends to involve the appearance of warts in the anal region. They can appear inside the intestine itself or on the outside, causing discomfort.

Anal cancer.

Many patients confuse them with common boils, but it’s important to keep track of them. Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your doctor. It’ll give you peace of mind.

4. Changes in bowel movements

We all experience small upsets in our intestinal transit from time to time. Everyone experiences occasional constipation or diarrhea. This is normal.

Things to be concerned about include loss of control of the anal muscles and incontinence.

As the tumors advance, the patient may experience fluid secretions in the anal area.

5. Itching

Symptoms in the lower half of the body include fatigue in the lower back, abdominal pressure, and itching in the anal area.

The itching is often attributed to hemorrhoids, so many people resort to the classic creams and treatments to relieve the discomfort of a health problem not often shared with others.

We need to once again emphasize the importance of consulting your doctor at the first sign of any of these symptoms.

person sitting on toilet and experiencing anal itching, a symptom of anal cancer


Early diagnosis increases the chances of treatment success significantly. This is why it’s important to consult your doctor if you have any concerns or notice any discomfort or unusual symptoms.

In a small number of cases, anal cancer isn’t diagnosed until the advanced stages when the tumor has reached the lymph nodes. Treatment is often much more aggressive in thee cases.

However, medical cancer knowledge advances every day, and new technologies, treatments, and drugs are constantly being developed to better help patients.

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  • American Cancer Society (ACS). (2014). Colorectal Cancer Overview. American Cancer Society.
  • Monson, J. R. T., Weiser, M. R., Buie, W. D., Chang, G. J., & Rafferty, J. F. (2013). Practice parameters for the management of rectal cancer (revised). Diseases of the Colon and Rectum. https://doi.org/10.1097/DCR.0b013e31828cb66c
  • Glynne-Jones, R., Nilsson, P. J., Aschele, C., Goh, V., Peiffert, D., Cervantes, A., & Arnold, D. (2014). Anal cancer: ESMO-ESSO-ESTRO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. European Journal of Surgical Oncology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejso.2014.07.030