Cancer of the Anus and Rectum

Because the symptoms of hemorrhoids and early-stage rectal/colon cancer are very similar, people often confuse and, at times, misdiagnose the two conditions. Since the treatment method for each condition is vastly different, it’s important to know how to differentiate hemorrhoids from rectal cancer and proceed with the appropriate treatment options.

Anal Cancer

Anal cancer is account for 2% of cancer in the gastrointestinal tract. Anal cancer generally do not produce any pain; an external or internal mass may be palpable. Some lesions are so soft that they are missed on palpation. Anal cancers are staged and treated differently from rectal cancers. Anal cancer can take several forms including ulcers, polyps or verrucous growths; treatment is typically a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and pelvic radiation.

Rectal Cancer

Rectal cancer is a malignant tumor (cancerous tumor that spreads) that forms in the tissues of the rectum. The common rectal cancer symptoms can include:

  • Bloody stools
  • A change in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation)
  • Stools that are not round in shape
  • Anal tenesmus (the feeling of urgently and constantly needing to pass stools due to rectal inflammation)
  • Unexplained weight loss (typically later symptom)
  • Unexplained fatigue (typically later symptom)
  • Pelvic or lower abdominal pain (typically later symptom)
  • The risk of rectal cancer increases as you age, so the condition is more common in individuals over 50, although it can also manifest in younger people. Those with either a personal or family history of colorectal polyps, colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are at a higher risk.

    If you have any of above symptoms, you’ll need to still see a doctor for a digital rectal exam, colonoscopy and full work-up.
     

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