I thought I had a hemorrhoid. I remember driving to my sister’s house over Thanksgiving and trying to sit on one side because it felt like something was there. A week later, I had my annual OBG appointment and she performed a rectal exam. She assured me that it was NOT a hemorrhoid and that I should get it checked immediately.
In its early stages, anal cancer may be asymptomatic. As the disease progresses, anal cancer can present with certain signs and symptoms including:
- Anal or rectal discharge, such as pus, mucus or bleeding.
- Anal, rectal or surrounding area pain, itching, pressure or a full feeling. These symptoms may be constant or exacerbated by bowel movements or sex.
- A change in bowel frequency, size or difficulty. For example stools may become more narrow, you may experience increased straining, or you may use the bathroom more often.
- A lump or hard area near the anus or swollen lymph nodes in the groin, pelvis or anal area.
It is important for people who have anal cancer symptoms to be examined by their healthcare provider or referred to a specialist. Although these symptoms may indicate the presence of anal cancer, some individuals with anal cancer may be asymptomatic.
I noticed that I was bleeding from my rectum in December 2010. I didn’t think much of it in the beginning. Assuming it was a case of hemorrhoids, I decided not to go to see the GP. The bleeding persisted and I noticed some changes in my bowel habits so eventually, after much persuasion from my family, I went to see my GP. I really believed that I was wasting the GP’s time, so was very taken aback when she said “I can feel an abnormality in your rectum, I need to refer you for further investigation”.
Utilize yearly examinations, annual check-ups, or other medical visits as occasions to talk to your provider about screening, and as opportunities for them to screen for anal cancer. Individuals with anal cancer risk factors should discuss screening with their providers. See our screening section for more information on options. If you think something is wrong, and you feel your doctor is not appropriately addressing your concerns, seek a second opinion.
Some doctors may misdiagnose anal cancer for hemorrhoids. If your hemorrhoids persist and do not disappear after treatment, speak to your doctor about a more detailed examination or ask for a referral to a specialist.