Experiences withAnal cancer
Symptoms of anal cancer include bleeding, discharge, lumps and itching inside and outside the anus.
Anal cancer can usually be treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery, depending on the size of the cancer and how far it has spread.
Most anal cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus you can get from sex or skin-to-skin contact of the genital area.
Main symptoms of anal cancer
Symptoms of anal cancer can include:
- bleeding from the bottom
- itching and pain around the anus
- small lumps around and inside the bottom
- a discharge of mucus from the bottom
- having problems controlling when you poo (bowel incontinence)
- needing to poo often with looser, runnier poos
Anal cancer may have no symptoms at all, or they might be hard to spot.
Anal cancer symptoms are often similar to piles (haemorrhoids) and anal fissures, which are common and less serious conditions.
- have symptoms of anal cancer
- notice a change around your anus that is not normal for you
Who is more likely to get anal cancer
Most anal cancers are caused by an infection called human papillomavirus (HPV).
You can get HPV from:
- any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area
- vaginal, anal or oral sex
- sharing sex toys
Anal cancer is rare. Most people affected by HPV will not develop cancer.
You may be more likely to get anal cancer if you:
- have anal sex
- are over the age of 75
- have had cervical or vaginal cancer
- have a weakened immune system, such as from HIV or an organ transplant
How to reduce your risk of getting anal cancer
You cannot always prevent anal cancer. HPV vaccination is one of the best ways to protect against anal cancer.
All children aged 12 to 13 are offered the HPV vaccine. It helps protect against cancers caused by HPV, as well as genital warts.
There are also healthy changes you can make to lower your chances of getting anal cancer.
use a condom when having sex to lower your chances of getting HPV
keep sex toys clean and do not share them
try to quit smoking
Main tests for anal cancer
You might have some tests and scans to check for anal cancer if a GP refers you to a specialist.
The tests you have will depend on your symptoms.
The tests may include:
- putting a thin tube with a camera and light into your bottom to check for any changes
- taking a small sample from your anus (biopsy) so it can be looked at in a laboratory under a microscope
- blood tests
Treatment for anal cancer
Anal cancer is often treatable when found early.
The treatment you have for anal cancer will depend on:
- the size of the cancer
- where it is
- if it has spread
- your general health
The main treatment for anal cancer is a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, called chemoradiation (or chemoradiotherapy).
Other treatments include chemotherapy or radiotherapy on their own, and surgery.
The specialist care team looking after you will:
- explain the treatments, benefits and side effects
- work with you to create a treatment plan that is best for you
- help you manage any side effects, including any changes to your diet
You'll have regular check-ups during and after any treatments. You may also have tests and scans.
If you have any symptoms or side effects that you are worried about, talk to your specialists. You do not need to wait for your next check-up.
Where to find help and support
HealthUnlocked contains information from NHS Digital, licensed under the current version of the Open Government Licence