Anal dysplasia is a condition where abnormal cells grow in or near the anal canal. Although it is not cancer, these abnormal cells can become cancerous over time, making it important to get screened.
Here, we look at what anal cancer is, the signs and symptoms to watch out for, and why getting treatment for anal dysplasia is important.
What is anal cancer and how does it link to anal dysplasia?
Anal cancer is a rare form of cancer that affects approximately 1500 people in the UK each year. Occurring in the anal canal, which is the short tube at the end of the rectum that expels stool from the body, it develops when abnormal cells grow and multiply in the anal region.
Anal dysplasia is considered a precancerous condition because it involves the growth of abnormal cells in or near the anal canal. If left untreated, these abnormal cells can develop into cancerous tumours within the anal region, leading to the onset of anal cancer.
Anal dysplasia is also commonly caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the same virus that can cause anal cancer.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The signs and symptoms of anal cancer can vary depending on its severity and location. Some common symptoms of anal cancer include:
- Pain/pressure in the anal region
- Anal itching or burning
- Bleeding from the anus or rectum
- Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea or constipation
- A lump or growth in the anal area
- Unexplained weight loss
Anal dysplasia causes much the same symptoms, though it also might not cause any symptoms at all. Routine screening is recommended for people who may be at higher risk, such as those with a history of anal warts or HPV infection.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have concerns, it’s recommended that you seek the advice of a GP or a colorectal specialist.
Treating anal dysplasia
Treatment for anal dysplasia depends on its severity and the extent of the lesions. Mild cases of anal dysplasia may require no treatment at all and can be monitored closely over time. More severe cases may require treatment, which can include:
- Topical creams: Medications can be applied to the anal region to destroy the abnormal cells.
- Surgery: Lesions may be removed by surgery to eliminate abnormal cells and prevent the progression of the disease.
- Electrosurgery: This involves using an electrical current to remove abnormal cells.
- Cryotherapy: Abnormal cells are destroyed by freezing them.
- Laser therapy: A focused beam of light can be used to destroy the abnormal cells.
- Radiation therapy: In some cases, radiation therapy may be used to destroy abnormal cells.
It’s important to note that while treatment for anal dysplasia is often successful, the condition can recur. Therefore, it’s important to continue regular monitoring after treatment.
If you have anal dysplasia and you are worried about the risk of developing anal cancer, book an appointment with Mr Alan Woodward. He will assess the condition and determine the best course of treatment to eliminate it.