Anal cancer symptoms

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on June 8, 2022.

Early detection of anal cancer is common because these tumors develop in a part of the digestive tract that doctors are able to see and reach. Symptoms of early-stage anal cancer often prompt patients to visit their doctor, though not everyone experiences symptoms.

More than half of patients with anal cancer experience rectal bleeding, which is often the first indication of the disease. Symptoms of anal tumors may be similar to benign conditions, such as hemorrhoids, fissures, fistulas and anal warts. It’s important to discuss these symptoms with your doctor to determine whether or not your anal tumors are cancerous.

Other common symptoms of anal cancer, in addition to rectal bleeding, may include:

  • Persistent or recurring anal itching
  • Persistent or recurring pain in the anal area
  • Feeling of a lump or mass in the anus
  • Change in bowel habits (going to the bathroom more or less frequently) or increased strain during bowel movement
  • A narrowing of the diameter of stool
  • Abnormal discharge from the anus
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the anal or groin area

Symptoms often associated with anal cancer may be confused with colorectal or intestinal cancer symptoms.

Next topic: What are the types of anal cancer?

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