Anal fissure and anal cancer are different conditions that share common symptoms.

An anal fissure is a very common condition and isn’t usually a cause for concern. Anal cancer, on the other hand, is rare but can be potentially life-threatening, especially in its later stages.

This article will help you distinguish the two conditions and provide information on their symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment options.

First, let’s figure out how to distinguish anal fissures from anal cancer.

Signs and symptoms of anal fissures

Anal fissures are small tears in the thin tissue that lines the anus. The most common symptoms of anal fissures include:

  • sharp pain during bowel movements
  • burning or itching after bowel movements that can last several hours
  • bright red blood on the toilet paper or stool

Signs and symptoms of anal cancer

Anal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the anus. It’s most often linked with an infection of human papillomavirus (HPV). Anal cancer can have few or no symptoms, especially in the early stages. But, as the condition progresses, you can begin noticing the following symptoms:

While some symptoms, like bleeding and pain, may be present in both conditions, these symptoms are typically more persistent when you have anal cancer.

Let’s talk about the causes and risk factors of both conditions.

Anal fissure causes and risk factors

Anal fissures most commonly result from damage to the lining of your anal canal. This can happen due to high levels of pressure during bowel movements often caused by constipation or diarrhea.

Other causes of anal fissures include:

Anal cancer causes and risk factors

The exact cause of anal cancer isn’t known, but there are certain risk factors that can increase your chances of getting this condition. These include:

  • HPV infection
  • weakened immune system
  • smoking

Seeking professional help is often essential for an accurate diagnosis. A doctor may perform a physical examination, use imaging scans, and conduct a biopsy to distinguish between anal fissures and cancer.

Several other conditions can share symptoms with anal fissures and cancer.


Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in your rectum or anus. Depending on the type of hemorrhoids, they can cause:

  • bleeding from the anus
  • severe itching
  • difficulty sitting

A doctor can often distinguish hemorrhoids from other conditions through a visual inspection of your anus.

Anal warts

Anal warts are small warts that can occur inside and around your anus. Anal warts may not have symptoms, but as they grow they may cause:

  • pain
  • pressure
  • bleeding

Warts may occur on other parts of your body at the same time that you have anal warts.

Colorectal polyps

Colonic or colorectal polyps are growths on the surface of the colon. Although they typically don’t cause any symptoms, particularly large polyps can cause:

  • bleeding
  • persistent diarrhea or constipation
  • pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

IBD is a group of conditions that cause prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract. People with these conditions can have bleeding ulcers in their digestive tract that can manifest as blood in the stool. But, bleeding is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as:

  • persistent diarrhea
  • abdomen pain or cramping
  • weight loss

Be sure to speak with a medical professional if you have any worrisome symptoms, such as anal pain, pressure, or bleeding, especially if they persist or worsen.

Doctors use different approaches to treat anal fissures and anal cancer.

Treating anal fissures

Anal fissures can often be treated with lifestyle changes, such as increased fiber and water intake. Stool softeners and laxatives can help people with constipation. If you have persistent anal fissures, a doctor may recommend surgery.

Learn more about treating anal fissures.

Treating anal cancer

The treatment for anal cancer depends on the stage and may involve a combination of:

It’s often curable if it’s diagnosed and treated before it spreads to other organs.

Learn more about treating anal cancer.

While anal fissures are more common and usually not alarming, anal cancer demands swift attention. It’s recommended to seek medical attention if you experience persistent symptoms, such as anal pain, pressure, or bleeding. Although anal cancer can be life-threatening, it’s usually curable if diagnosed early.