Anal Cancer

Statement Describing the Challenge

Statement Describing the Challenge: Anal cancer occurs when malignant cells start growing in the tissue of the anus. This type of cancer is considered to be fairly curable. The anus is on average a 1 ½ inch long structure that includes outer layers of skin and the end of the large intestine. The main function of the anus is to allow the passage of feces during a bowel movement. The anus includes two ring-like muscles called sphincters. These sphincters, with both voluntary and involuntary muscle control, are responsible for exiting the stool from the body. The following list of symptoms may be indicators of anal cancer: pain or pressure around the anus, bleeding or other abnormal discharges from the anus, itching of the anus, a change in bowel habits, or a lump near the anus. Like any cancer, it is not possible to completely eliminate the risk of developing anal cancer. However, there are several risk factors that greatly increase the risk of anal cancer, some of which can be avoided. The risk factors are having many sexual partners, having anal sex, being infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV), smoking, being over the age of 50, having fistulas or abnormal openings around the anus, and having frequent swelling, redness, or soreness of the anus. Physicians use a variety of tests to examine the anus in order to detect or diagnose anal cancer. How advanced the cancer is largely determines the prognosis and treatment options available for the patient. Traditional and non-traditional treatments typically used are described below. A single treatment or combination of any of the treatments may be used at any given time.

Non-Drug Treatments

Surgery • Local resection This type of surgery removes the cancerous tumor and is used when the cancer has not spread. • Abdominoperineal resection This surgery is more complex and used when the cancer is in more advanced stages. This procedure removes both the anus and the lower rectum. A colostomy, or opening for the removal of stool is created in place of the anus. Today this surgery is fairly uncommon because radiation and chemotherapy treatments have shown to be just as effective. Radiation High energy, radioactive rays are used to fight off the cancer cells. Radiation can be performed from the outside of the body or administered internally, by surgically implanting radioactive pellets.

Alternative Medicine Treatments

Acupuncture, Massage Therapy, Mediation, and Diet Some individuals may seek for these non-traditional forms of cancer treatment. Acupuncture, massage therapy, and mediation, are ways people attempt to apply the mind over body principle. In other instances, individuals with anal cancer may try to reduce the cancer with vitamins or herbs. However, they are no evidence to support that these treatments reduce the cancer. Anal cancer patients often do seek these treatments though to lessen the stress and negative side effects caused by radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery.

Drug Therapy

Chemotherapy fights the cancer by putting drugs into the body through a pill or a needle. In some cases, chemotherapy drugs are used to kill off the cancerous cells. Other times, the drugs are designed to make the cancer more vulnerable to the effects of radiation. Side effects such as nausea, fatigue, vomiting, and hair loss are common. The type and level of chemotherapy chosen is largely dependent upon the stage of cancer.