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Symptoms of anal cancer

Find out about possible symptoms of anal cancer and when to see your doctor.

The symptoms of anal cancer can be similar to other problems of the anus, such as piles (haemorrhoids) or anal fissures.


The most common symptom is bleeding from the back passage (rectal bleeding). Nearly half of all people diagnosed with anal cancer have had rectal bleeding or blood in their poo (stools). 


You might have pain around your anal area. Together with bleeding, this may be confused with piles.

Sensation of a lump

1 in 3 people (30%) feel the sensation of a lump around their anus.

Severe itching

You might have severe itching (pruritus) in the area around your anus.

Discharge of mucus from your back passage

You may notice discharge of mucus from your back passage.

Bowel changes

You may notice you have difficulty controlling your bowels (faecal incontinence).

No symptoms

You might have no symptoms at all. 1 in 5 people (20%) diagnosed with anal cancer don’t have any symptoms.

When to see your doctor

You should see your doctor if you have:

  • symptoms that are unusual for you
  • symptoms that won't go away

Your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer but it is important to get them checked by a doctor.

Last reviewed: 
06 Jun 2016
  • Anal cancer: ESMO-ESSO-ESTRO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    R. Glynne-Jones and others. Annals of Oncology, 2014. Issue 25, Supplement 3

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (10th edition)
    VT De Vita, TS Lawrence and SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

  • Textbook of Uncommon cancer (4th edition)
    D Raghavean and others (editors)
    Wiley-blackwell, 2012

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