A common question I frequently encounter is, ‘Can hemorrhoids cause cancer?’ If you’re also among those grappling with the same question, you can take comfort in knowing that hemorrhoids do not cause cancer on their own.
Generally, cancer appears due to lifestyle choices, eating/drinking habits, and genetic factors. However, hemorrhoids exhibit symptoms that seem identical to signs of colorectal cancer. Although the two are not directly connected, it’s wise to know the differences.
Here’s all you want to know!
What are hemorrhoids, and how are they caused?
Hemorrhoids are a pressing medical condition where the blood vessels in your lower intestine or anal area swell up, causing discomfort, pain, or itchiness.
Your hemorrhoids may develop as internal or external conditions. Internal hemorrhoids are when inflammation takes place in the rectum (which is the last sections of your large intestine), and bleeding during bowel movements is a common symptom. External hemorrhoids happen when the swollen tissues appear around or outside the anal opening. Symptoms of this condition include pain, discomfort, itchiness, and bleeding.
The primary cause of hemorrhoids is excessive pressure on the lower intestine and rectum. The added strain can come from a variety of conditions.
Irregular Bowel Movement
Sporadic bowel movement remains the most common reason why people develop hemorrhoids.
Chronic constipation is a good example where your bowel movements happen less frequently, and extra pressure goes into your rectum. The opposite is also true. Diarrhea will lead to frequent bowel movements putting additional pressure on your rectal and anal openings.
Straining on the Loo
Even without constipation or diarrhea, you can increase the risk of hemorrhoids if you strain habitually when sitting on the toilet. The extra pressure on your lower bottom aggravates the tissue and linings along the intestine. This added strain on the rectal tissues can cause them to swell up and lead to hemorrhoids.
Obese people face a bigger risk of developing hemorrhoids over time. When you’re overweight, any physical movement you make puts additional pressure on your lower body, including your bottom. The extra pressure of the weight on your rectal veins increases the chances of hemorrhoids.
Pregnancy may cause a variety of hemorrhoid-causing conditions in the body. For one, putting on the extra weight directs more pressure on your lower body. Also, the growing size of your uterus will also exert more strain on your pelvis and rectal tissues. Finally, changes in diet and hormonal balance also cause irregularities in bowel movement which is a leading cause of hemorrhoids.
People who have a genetic history of hemorrhoidal conditions face a higher risk of developing the condition.
If your parents, family members, or grandparents had a history of struggling with hemorrhoids, there’s a higher risk of you inheriting the condition. Of course, genes alone do not determine the likelihood of getting hemorrhoids. But there’s a close connection between people who develop hemorrhoids and having a family history of the same medical condition.
What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoidal symptoms may vary from person to person, depending on the type, nature, and severity of the condition. But there are some common symptoms identified across most patients.
- Itchiness in the anal area is a common sign of hemorrhoids regardless of severity. Swollen hemorrhoids may produce secretions that irritate the skin and create the urge to scratch constantly.
- The passing of bright red blood is another common sign of hemorrhoids. Swollen tissue remains sensitive to bruises, and bowel movement may cause abrasions leading to blood.
- Annoying pain in the anus is another symptom observed in people with external hemorrhoids. Swollen tissues may protrude out of the anal opening leading to pain and discomfort when sitting or moving.
- Prolapsed tissue visible outside the anus is another sign of hemorrhoids. Bowel movement or excessive swelling may lead to inflammation making its way out of the anus.
What is the link between hemorrhoids and cancer?
There is no direct link that connects hemorrhoids and cancer.
Hemorrhoids are mostly confined to tissues and blood vessels that swell up in your rectum or anal area. And in most cases, OTC medications, tweaks in diet, and changes in lifestyle remain enough to manage the condition. Cancer, on the other hand, mostly implies uncontrolled, abnormal, and unusual cell development in the body. The condition can be lethal, and treatment also requires more serious strategies that may include chemotherapy, radiation, and extreme changes in lifestyle.
Despite the difference, it’s easy to get confused because hemorrhoidal symptoms are often similar to signs of colorectal cancer. Both conditions may cause rectal bleeding, itchiness, and trouble with bowel movement.
Apart from the symptomatic similarities, the two conditions remain worlds apart in severity, cure, and treatment methods.
Can hemorrhoids lead to anything serious?
Hemorrhoids do not lead to any other serious medical conditions in most cases. And you can perform the majority of treatment and management in the easy comfort of your home.
However, hemorrhoids can grow from a benign state to assume more serious symptoms if ignored or left unmanaged.
- External hemorrhoids that have prolapsed (protruded out the anus) may get caught in between (unable to go back in). Your anus may strangulate the prolapsed tissue leading to extreme pain or unbearable discomfort.
- Poor hygiene may cause hemorrhoids to develop infections. Infected tissues coupled with hemorrhoids will lead to extreme discomfort and the development of pus that needs medical assistance.
- Continued rectal bleeding may lead to anemia, where your body faces a deficiency of red blood cells. This condition will weaken the body and its immune system, leaving you vulnerable to other health issues.
When should I see a doctor?
Consult a professional clinician or doctor when you notice any of the concerning symptoms described above.
Rectal bleeding and excessive discomfort are both good reasons to go see a doctor. A proper diagnosis will confirm if you only have hemorrhoids or if there are other underlying conditions.
Do not ignore or put aside these symptoms as menial. You should get an accurate diagnosis regardless of whether your condition is benign or something more serious.
Hemorrhoids do not cause cancer directly, but they come with symptoms similar to some types of rectal or colon cancer. Consulting a qualified medical professional is the best way to confirm whether your condition is serious and what treatment steps to take.
Always go for professional clinical consultation when in doubt regarding your symptoms.