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Anal cancer is cancer that arises in the anus or the opening of the rectum where feces exits the body.

Anal cancer has been on the rise over the decades due to papillomavirus (HPV), which is the major risk for anal cancer. Anal cancer is not to be confused with colon cancer or rectal cancer.

Risk factors for anal sex

Receptive anal sex increases the risk of anal cancer in both men and women. Men who have sex with men have a higher risk of anal cancer than women. Even men who practice safe sex using condoms have a higher risk of anal cancer due to the increased friction in a very sensitive area that tears easily.

Anal sex transmits HPV which causes anal cancer. Skin to skin contact also transmits HPV.

"Unfortunately, HPV can also be transmitted to the anus through anal intercourse and cause cancer there," San Diego-based gynecologist Christine Sterling told POPSUGAR.

The anus is not a sex organ and does not self-lubricate like the vagina. You should use plenty of lubricant to cut down on the risk of friction and transmitting the HPV virus.

Should I use enemas before anal sex?

Some people use enemas before anal sex to evacuate the colon to reduce accidents.

The anus is attached to the rectum, the last portion of the colon (large intestine) where remaining water is absorbed into the bloodstream drying out the feces before it leaves the body. If stool too quickly moves through the colon (without the remaining water being removed), it will cause diarrhea or watery stools. If not enough water is removed, it will cause constipation.

This is why you should avoid enemas or colonics which disturb the intestinal process of removing just the right amount of water and absorbing it back into your bloodstream.

What are symptoms of anal cancer?

The first sign of anal cancer is bleeding after a bowel movement. You will notice pink or red stains on toilet paper after wiping. Also, you may notice frank red blood on the bowel movement in the bowl.

Other signs or symptoms include a lump near the anus, pain, itchiness, a change in bowel movements or discharge from the anus.

Pencil thin stools can be a sign of anal cancer, colon cancer, or hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids itself is not cancer but it can be a risk for cancer.

Most symptoms usually don't appear until the cancer has advanced to stage 2 or 3. Your doctor should check for anal cancer annually as part of your physical exam. Early detection of anal cancer can be done in your doctor's office. Your doctor might give you a diagnostic test to take home with you. The consists of sticks to take a stool sample and cards to smear the sample which will be sent to a lab.

This has been your Medical Minute.

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