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Anal cancer is a tumour that develops in the last 5cm of the bowel. It is completely different from colorectal cancer, which occurs much higher up in the gut.
Anal cancer is generally a rare disease. The rate at which it occurs varies considerably:
Anal cancer rates appear to be increasing in both men and women.
The following factors may increase someone's risk of anal cancer:
Usually no symptoms, for the first few years. This is why the condition often not noticed until it is at an advanced stage. If symptoms do develop, they may include:
A simple examination of the anal canal with a lubricated, gloved finger can often be useful in initially making the diagnosis. this can be done by your general practitioner or specialist. You may wish to consider learning to do this yourself.
The screening roles of anal Pap smear testing and high resolution anoscopy is still being evaluated.
Treatment is usually one or several of the following: surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
The five-year survival is 65-75%. Anal cancers diagnosed early thend to respond better to treatment than those seen later. Being HIV-negative also improves the prognosis.
Your general practitioner should be able to give you some very useful advice. Also, the Medical Center at the University of California, San Francisco has a good website.