Bleeding from the anus is one of the most common symptoms of anal cancer. Other symptoms include anal pressure or pain, masses or growths, itching and discharge. Warning signs do not occur in all individuals who have the disease, and signs of anal cancer are also associated with other medical conditions.
Anal cancer is a type of cancer, or malignancy, that begins in the anus and can spread to other areas of the body. Some individuals experience no symptoms at all, and others do not have warning signs until the cancer has advanced past the early stages. Nearly half of anal cancer patients report bleeding as their initial symptom. Blood from the lower structures of the colon, such as the anus, is typically bright red and appears on or in the stool.
Pressure and pain in the anal area are also symptoms of anal cancer. These symptoms might be mild or debilitating, because the anal region has an abundance of nerve endings, making it particularly sensitive. Anal pressure and pain commonly occur in healthy individuals, so they are not always indicative of anal cancer.
Tumor masses and other growths might be symptoms of anal cancer as well. Various types of cancerous or benign tumors can develop in the anus, such as relatively harmless skin tags or serious squamous cell carcinomas. Lumps and other growths might be readily felt or seen in the anal area, but others can remain undetected without a thorough physical examination, biopsy or other diagnostic methods.
Itching and unusual discharges from the anus are also associated with anal cancer. When itching occurs alone or in conjunction with bleeding, it might be the result of another condition, such as hemorrhoids. The same is true of mucus-like anal discharges. Still, both itching and discharges have been reported by individuals who were later diagnosed with anal cancer.
Symptoms of anal cancer might be caused by other conditions, so some individuals might dismiss them, assuming that they have a less serious ailment. Doctors recommend that any person who experiences discomforting or worrisome symptoms should seek professional medical advice. This is especially important for those who are most at risk for anal cancer, such as people age 50 or older, those who have human papillomavirus (HPV), individuals who have had numerous sexual partners and those who have anal sex. Anal cancer, like other cancers, is most treatable the earlier it is caught, so responding to symptoms quickly and appropriately is crucial.