BACKGROUND Incidence of anal carcinoma (AC) is increasing and timely diagnosis is critical for efficient therapy. However, there is a paucity of recent studies addressing clinical symptoms and physical findings of anal carcinoma.
METHODS We performed a retrospective study reviewing history, symptoms and physical findings from 86 patients with newly diagnosed AC. We analyzed frequency of symptoms and physical findings according to T and TNM stage and their predictive value regarding tumor stage.
RESULTS Most patients presented with T2 (37 %) or T3 (29 %) cancer. 85 of 86 patients were symptomatic with anal bleeding (78 %), anal/perianal pain (63 %), weight loss (31 %) and foreign body sensation (22 %). 95 % of patients had ≥1 finding on physical examination including a visible tumor, palpable resistance and pain/blood during digital rectal examination. Patients with locally advanced disease (T3/T4) presented with more symptoms (p < 0.01) and more physical findings (p = 0.04) than patients with T1/T2 disease. On multivariate regression analysis perianal pain, painful defecation and weight loss were significantly associated with T3/T4 disease.
CONCLUSION Clinical symptoms and physical findings are present in nearly all AC patients. Pain referred to the perianal region, painful defecation and weight loss have predictive value for locally advanced disease.