Anal cancer awareness day. March 21. Template for background, banner, card, poster.

Anal cancer is relatively rare, making up only about 4 percent of lower gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. Several different types of anal cancer exist, but squamous cell carcinoma (cancer of the middle and outer skin cell layers) is the most common. Squamous cell carcinoma usually begins in the anal canal, from the anus and going inward about 2-3 centimeters.

Other less common types of anal cancer include:

  • Adenocarcinoma. This cancer begins in cells of the lining of the anal canal or the glands just underneath it.
  • Carcinoid tumor. This is a rare type of slow-growing anal cancer.
  • Melanoma. This cancer begins in the melanocytes (cells that give skin its color).
  • Small cell carcinoma. This is a rare type of aggressive anal cancer.
Causes of anal cancer

The exact cause of anal cancer remains unknown; however, researchers have identified several risk factors, including:

  • Lowered immunity, including being HIV-positive
  • Presence of condyloma or high-grade dysplasia
  • Receiving anal intercourse
  • Sexual activity, especially with multiple partners
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), especially human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Smoking
Symptoms of anal cancer
Most people with an early anal cancer don’t experience any symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they can include pain or bleeding from the anal area.
Treatment for anal cancer
Depending on the type, your specialist may recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy as the first course of treatment for anal cancer. If those treatments do not destroy the cancer cells, you may need surgery to remove the cancerous tissue. Surgery may also be used as a means to control symptoms from a more advanced anal cancer, and it may be used as the first course of therapy to treat some of the less common types of anal cancer. Your North Carolina Surgery team will help you plan the most effective treatment based on many different factors, which we will discuss during your consultation in our clinic.

Learn more about the procedures and surgeries that our team offers.