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Difference between anal cancer and hemorrhoids?

Anal Cancer vs Hemorrhoids


The brunt of fast foods is borne by the intestines and the stomach leading to hemorrhoids and multiple other anal problems. Hemorrhoids, also called as piles, are dilated rectal veins. Anal cancer, also called as rectal cancer, is an abnormal growth of cancerous cells in the anus.


Difference in causes

         The cause of anal cancer is most commonly the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and is seen in persons having multiple sexual partners or being passive partners while having anal sex. Hemorrhoids are caused due to excessive straining during stools, chronic constipation and excessively spicy foods which cause dilatation and swelling of the rectal veins. The anal canal is lined by thin squamous cells. An uncontrolled and uncoordinated, abnormal, growth of these cells leads to squamous cell anal cancer. Under normal conditions, the veins act as a cushioning material to the delicate and thin anal tissues. As the person strains repeatedly to pass hard stools, there is an increased pressure in the anus along with the friction produced by the hard stools which causes inflammation and swelling of the veins. These veins become externally visible or internally clotted causing bleeding and pain while moving bowels.

Difference in symptoms

         Anal cancer patients present with bleeding, change in stool consistency as well as a detectable growth of cells in the anus. Persons with anal cancer may have diarrhea or constipation whereas persons with hemorrhoids generally have a history of chronic constipation. Bleeding may be dark or bright red colored in anal cancer while it tends to be bright red in hemorrhoids.

       The symptoms of hemorrhoids are that of constricting or pricking pain during and after stools, burning at the anal orifice, fresh blood drops after passing stools and bright red blood on toilet tissue. The fresh (red) blood always suggests that the blood is coming from a lower anal canal and hence is a characteristic differentiating symptom for hemorrhoids. A soft swelling with a sensation as if ‘something is coming out of the anus’ is often complained of in hemorrhoids. In grade 3 and grade 4 piles, the tortuous rectal veins might collapse and protrude out of the anal opening and remain permanently outside.

         Swelling of lymph nodes and abnormal discharge from the anus is a common feature of anal cancer and is never seen in hemorrhoids. A hard growth noticed within or surrounding the anus is probably due to anal cancer. A fluctuant venous swelling suggests hemorrhoids.

            A person with piles will have a normal appetite and the weight will be maintained but in a person with anal cancer, there is frequently loss of appetite, weight loss and profuse weakness associated with the rectal symptoms.

Difference in treatment

      A clinical examination by a gastroenterologist or a general surgeon will mostly be enough to diagnose the condition. He might use a proctoscope or a sigmoidoscope to look inside your anal canal for the source of the growth. Fine needle aspiration biopsy of the growth will suggest the grading and the type of cell growth, if an anal cancer is suspected.

        Persons with anal cancer have to undergo surgery for removal of the tumor followed by radiation or chemotherapy to kill the remaining cancerous cells. Further, avoiding multiple partners is essential to avoid Human Papilloma Virus infection. Once diagnosis is confirmed piles can be treated by lifestyle modifications, laxatives and altering eating habits such as reducing fast food and increasing fiber and fluid intake. Persons should avoid sedentary life styles and get some exercise in the daily routine to strengthen the anal muscles. If piles persist, one may opt for surgery.

Summary: Anal cancer is a cancerous growth of the anal cells which may spread to other parts of the body. Hemorrhoids are dilated and engorged rectal veins that bleed spontaneously.

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  1. I take issue with the paragraph beginning “the cause of anal cancer is…” Anal Cancer is very commonly seen in middled aged women, who may have been infected at some time in their lives with a HPV strain – as have 80% plus of the population. Many such women have not had multiple sexual partners, nor anal sex, so stating the cause of this cancer to these practices that is likely to be an additional cause of stigma, as well as being inaccurate in many cases.

  2. Just this morning after a few weeks of painful poos which I thought must be piles…I decided to have a little feel. I was horrified to detect a hard rubbery lump just inside my bum. Its large. Walnut size or maybe more. I dont have any form of sex. Ive been happily single for 2 years. However in 2003 I was repeatedly raped in the back passage. That man is in prison as I speak. At some point during cervical smear tests I was told I had hpvirus. They said it was common. Oviously Im now scared witless about this lump. It hurts dreadfully to do a poo. It really is a large very firm hard lump. I can even feel it through my clothes. Will I die. I thought the article a bit insensitive. I agree with J Bell.

  3. Rectal cancer is not the same as anal cancer (which is caused by HPV).

  4. Okay I have an itchy lumpy growth near my anus. No blood discharge or anything otherwise. The lump is more evident immediately after the passage of stool. Also no fatigue or weight loss. There’s a lockdown imposed in my area due to which I can’t visit a doc. Can you suggest what might be the issue?

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