Yeah, yeah, it’s awkward to talk about – or even think about – that weird feeling going on in your butt.
But, while anal cancer isn’t hugely common (like, say, breast cancer), it is something you need to know about. Especially since it turns out that anal sex actually ups your risk profile…
Now before you bolt from this page to go stick your head in the sand somewhere, know that, mostly, if you do have one or more of these symptoms, it’s not worth panicking immediately – many of the signs listed below could be due to entirely innocent things.
Bloated? You may just be about to hit your period, or maybe you’re not eating enough fibre…
But if you’re left nodding over a high number of these symptoms, it might also be worth mentioning to your doctor…
Anal cancer red flags
According to the South African Cancer Association (Cansa), these are the warning signs and symptoms that something might be amiss…
1. Rectal bleeding – you may notice blood on your faeces or on the toilet paper – and/or pain in the anal area.
2. Lumps around your bum. These are often mistaken for piles (haemorrhoids). Ulcers are also a red flag, and these can spread to the skin of your butt. Swollen lymph nodes in the anal or groin areas should also be taken seriously.
3. Mucus or jelly-like discharge from the anus.
4. Anal itching.
5. A change in your bowel movements or the diameter of your stool. This may include diarrhoea, constipation, thinning of stools or faecal incontinence (problems controlling bowel movements).
6. Bloating. As mentioned before, this could be due to a number of reasons – and is very common in women – so just because you’re bloated, doesn’t mean you need to be stuck in the doctor’s waiting room for the next hour…
7. Women may experience lower back pain as the tumour exerts pressure on the vagina.
8. Women may also experience vaginal dryness.
9. A sense of fullness and constant need to go to the bathroom, or both, may occur as tumours grow and begin to invade the sphincter muscle.
How do I lower my risk?
We’ll say it again: put down the smokes. Seriously – they’re bad for you, and up your chances of a number of cancers, included anal cancer, obviously.
In fact, as a puffer, you’re a whopping four times more likely to get anal cancer that your clean-living counterparts.
Now… The sex part. Firstly, always use a condom, since wearing one may protect you against HPV.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a virus transmitted through sexual contact that is linked to several types of cancers. Also limit the number of sexual partners you have – multiple sexual partners increases your risk for both HPV and anal cancer. So that’s regular sex covered…
And backdoor action? Yup, unprotected anal intercourse definitely increases the risk of anal cancer for both men and women. Guys, use a condom!
Chat to your doctor about getting an HPV vaccine: Gardasil and Cervarix help protect against certain types of HPV. Note: If you already have HPV, these vaccines are not a cure.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
Image credit: iStock