Signs and Symptoms of Anal Cancer

Sometimes anal cancer causes no symptoms at all. But bleeding is often the first sign of the disease. The bleeding is usually minor. At first, most people assume the bleeding is caused by hemorrhoids (painful, swollen veins in the anus and rectum that may bleed). They are a benign and fairly common cause of rectal bleeding.

Important symptoms of anal cancer include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Rectal itching
  • A lump or mass at the anal opening
  • Pain or a feeling of fullness in the anal area
  • Narrowing of stool or other changes in bowel movements
  • Abnormal discharge from the anus
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the anal or groin areas

Most often these types of symptoms are more likely to be caused by benign (non-cancer) conditions, like hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or anal warts. Still, if you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to have them checked by a doctor so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: April 9, 2014 Last Revised: January 20, 2016

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