How to tell the difference between haemorrhoids and anal cancer

Do you know the difference between haemorrhoids and anal cancer? If not, we'll tell you everything you need to know about these abnormalities!

How to tell the difference between haemorrhoids and anal cancer
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How to tell the difference between haemorrhoids and anal cancer

Haemorrhoids and anal cancer are two distinct health problems that can affect the anal and rectal areas. Although they can both cause discomfort and pain, they are fundamentally different in nature, causes, symptoms and treatments. Here, we explore the key differences between haemorrhoids and anal cancer to help you better understand and differentiate these conditions.

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What are haemorrhoids?

Haemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed blood vessels in the rectal and anal area. This is a common condition that generally results from increased pressure on the blood vessels in the lower rectum. Inflammation or dilation of the haemorrhoidal veins can lead to attacks of severe pain in the rectum. They can be internal, meaning that they are located at the top of the anal canal, which makes them sensitive to the pressure of gas and stools. External haemorrhoids are found under the skin of the anus.

Haemorrhoids can be caused by straining during bowel movements, chronic constipation or diarrhoea, pregnancy, obesity and sitting for long periods. The most common symptoms of haemorrhoids are rectal bleeding during bowel movements, anal itching, pain, discomfort and the presence of a lump near the anus.

They are often diagnosed on the basis of a physical examination by a health professional. In some cases, additional tests such as rectosigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy may be necessary to rule out other pathologies.

Treatment for haemorrhoids often includes lifestyle changes (such as a high-fibre diet and increased fluid intake), over-the-counter medication and, in severe cases, procedures such as elastic ligation or surgical removal.

Read more:Anal cancer: Itchy anus could be an early sign of rare cancer

What is special about anal cancer?

Anal cancer is a rare but serious form of cancer that develops in the cells of the anal canal. It is generally associated with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and other risk factors. Anal cancer is mainly linked to persistent HPV infection, particularly certain high-risk strains of HPV. Other causes include the following:

  • a history of anal sex
  • smoking
  • a weakened immune system

Symptoms of anal cancer may include rectal bleeding, anal pain, itching, changes in bowel habits, the sensation of a lump or mass in the anal area and unexplained weight loss. The diagnosis of anal cancer is made using a physical examination, imaging tests and a biopsy of the abnormal tissue for confirmation.

Treatment of anal cancer often involves a combination of therapies, including surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The specific treatment plan depends on the stage and extent of the cancer.

Read more:Doctors shocked after discovering a luminous object in man's anus

How haemorrhoids differ from anal cancer

Although haemorrhoids and anal cancer can both affect the anal and rectal areas and have common symptoms such as rectal bleeding and discomfort, they are fundamentally different diseases. Haemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels caused for a variety of reasons, whereas anal cancer is a rare malignant tumour associated with HPV and other risk factors. In addition, anal cancer is a more serious disease than haemorrhoids and requires more extensive treatment.

Rapid diagnosis and appropriate medical assessment are essential to distinguish between these two conditions, as they require very different approaches to treatment and management.

If you are experiencing persistent anal symptoms, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for a proper assessment and diagnosis.

Read more:Does your body change after having anal sex? Here's the answer

This article has been translated from Gentside FR.

Sources used:

Hémorroïdes : reconnaître les hémorroïdes internes ou externes

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