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Cancer symptoms are sometimes vague and non-specific, which often results in late diagnosis. However, survival outcomes grow poorer when the condition slips under the radar. While looking into the toilet bowl after going for a number two might make you feel squeamish, paying attention to any changes in this area could ring alarm bells.
Anal cancer occurs when cells in your anus begin to grow out of control.
Most anal cancers start from the cells in mucosa, which describes the inner lining of the anal canal that connects the rectum to your anus.
There are various glands and ducts found under the mucosa which make mucus, acting as a lubricating fluid.
Due to the position of anal cancer tumours, some of the tell-tale signs can strike on the loo.
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According to the NHS, the warning signs to look out for include:
- Bleeding from the bottom
- Discharge of mucus from the bottom
- Needing to poo often with looser, runnier poos.
Cancer Research UK explains the “most common” symptom of anal cancer is bleeding from the back passage.
You might notice this red flag symptom as blood in your poo, in the toilet bowl, or on the loo roll.
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Apart from visible changes in your stool, you might also start having difficulty controlling your bowel movements.
This can present as sudden urges to poo that you simply can’t control or soiling yourself without realising you needed the toilet.
While some of the symptoms of anal cancer can be triggered by other benign conditions like piles, also known as haemorrhoids, it is important to “see a GP”.
The charity added: “If you have any of the above symptoms, you must get them checked by your GP.
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“Catching your cancer early can improve the outcomes.”
Worryingly, you might have anal cancer without experiencing any symptoms at all.
Cancer Research UK explains that 20 out of 100 people are diagnosed with the condition without having any tell-tale signs.
One of the key risk factors for anal cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV) which is a common sexually-transmitted infection.
HPV is thought to be the most common cause of anal cancer, with around 90 percent of cases being linked to this infection.
However, the virus causes no harm for many people and can go away without treatment, according to the charity.
Other risk factors include having cervical, vulval, or vaginal cancer.
“The risk is also higher for women with a history of abnormal cells in the cervix, vulva or vagina,” Cancer Research UK notes.
Furthermore, quitting smoking could help reduce your risk of developing many cancers, including anal cancer.
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