Many anal cancers can be found early in the course of the disease. Early anal cancers often have signs and symptoms that lead people to see a doctor. Unfortunately, some anal cancers may not cause symptoms until they reach an advanced stage. Other anal cancers can cause symptoms like those of diseases other than cancer. This may delay their diagnosis.
Anal cancer is a type of cancer that begins at the opening of the rectum (also known as anus). This unusual form of cancer is overlooked by almost everyone due to the location of the affected area. Most people who have experienced the symptoms of anal cancer do not discuss it with neither their doctor nor the people they know due to embarrassment.
The odds that anal cancer can be found early depend on the location and type of the cancer. Cancers that begin higher up in the anal canal are less likely to cause symptoms and be found early. Anal melanomas tend to spread earlier than other cancers, making it harder to diagnose them early.
Anal cancer should not be confused with colorectal cancer. Whereas colorectal cancer affects the whole large intestine and the rectum, the anal cancer affects only the beginning of the rectum.
Each year, more than 8,000 Americans are diagnosed with anal cancer. It is expected that 1,000 of them will die from it. Statistically, one of every four people who suffer from anal cancer has been diagnosed after the disease has spread to lymph nodes, and one of every ten people has been diagnosed after it has spread to other organs. Although the cases of anal cancer are not as frequent like the other types of cancer such as colon, rectal, or colorectal cancer, the number of people who suffer from it has grown rapidly in the last decade.