The unequivocal answer to “Can hemorrhoids turn into cancer?” is no. Hemorrhoids never become cancerous. However, hemorrhoids and colon cancer share many of the same symptoms. For this reason, getting an accurate diagnosis is key in ensuring you do not have a more serious health condition instead of inflamed hemorrhoids.
Colon cancer is not the only condition that shares symptoms with hemorrhoids, and hemorrhoids can turn into something more serious in some cases. If you see any blood in your stool, it is important to visit your doctor or schedule an appointment with us. It is likely just an irritated hemorrhoid or fissure. However, it is better to be safe than sorry. If you have a more serious condition, you do not want to ignore it.
Anal or Colon Cancer
Hemorrhoids cannot turn into cancer, but cancer is commonly misdiagnosed as hemorrhoids. Often, this stems from a self-diagnosis, but can also come from an inexperienced doctor or one who fails to do their due diligence to rule out cancerous lesions.
Minor bleeding during bowel movements is often the first noticeable sign of cancer of the colon or anal canal. Since hemorrhoids are much more common than cancer, and benign, many people opt to ignore the possibility of cancer and use over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams or other treatments for piles.
As you can imagine, this is not the best approach. If you have any bleeding at all, it is important to get to the bottom of it. In addition to rectal bleeding, other symptoms of cancer may include:
- Uncontrolled itching
- A mass near the anus
- Pain in the anal area
- Change in shape or consistency of stool
- Unexplained changes in bowel habits
- Abnormal discharge
- Swollen lymph nodes, most commonly in the groin
One of the most common serious conditions hemorrhoids can cause is uncontrolled bleeding. Most hemorrhoids are not serious enough to cause major bleeding, but when they do it can lead to anemia, fainting, and other issues. If you experience bloody stools or blood in the toilet, you should make an appointment for an exam as soon as possible. Early action can prevent episodes of uncontrolled bleeding.
When we diagnose internal hemorrhoids, we assign them a grade based on the severity. Any grade may bleed, but grades 3 and 4 are much more likely to cause serious bleeding than grade 1 or 2 hemorrhoids. Grade 4 hemorrhoids, which remain prolapsed all the time, are the most likely to produce uncontrolled bleeding. Grade 4 hemorrhoids often require a procedure for prolapse and hemorrhoids (PPH) or traditional hemorrhoidectomy to treat.
Hemorrhoids rarely become infected, but it can happen. This most frequently happens when an internal hemorrhoid slips through the anus and remains trapped outside. This prolapsed hemorrhoid can lose blood flow, becoming strangulated. Without the proper blood flow to bring in immune cells and keep the tissue alive, infection can set in quickly.
The first signs of infection are usually pain and warmth in the area, as well as further swelling. However, these infections may become systemic. If this occurs, you might develop a fever and trouble urinating, among other symptoms. This type of systemic infection, sometimes called sepsis, can lead to death.
While they do not stem from hemorrhoids, sometimes other types of anal abscesses can be confused with hemorrhoids. These abscesses produce pus and cause pain and inflammation. Without draining them, debriding the tissue, and antibiotics, this type of infection can also cause serious problems.
A Chronic Problem
Most cases of hemorrhoids are more of a nuisance than a serious health condition, but that does not mean they do not greatly affect your quality of life. This is especially true when a person has piles that occur again and again, becoming a chronic health problem.
The cause of chronic hemorrhoids varies. Genetics almost certainly plays a role in many cases, although a poor diet low in fiber and a sedentary job make the situation worse. Even after treatment, sometimes hemorrhoids return. We recommend eating a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, and high-fiber whole grains. Drinking plenty of water and getting regular exercise can also help.
When to See a Doctor
Hemorrhoids share a number of symptoms with much more serious health conditions, so it pays to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis instead of attempting to diagnose yourself. We see patients regularly who self-diagnose themselves with hemorrhoids when they actually suffer from anal fissures, diverticulosis, anal cancer or other types of cancer, yeast or fungal infections, irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, or colitis.
Even if you do have hemorrhoids, you may suffer from a serious complication that requires immediate treatment. This could include infection or uncontrolled bleeding, among others. If you have chronic issues with hemorrhoids, it is time to see a specialist for a treatment plan that addresses the factors that may be contributing to your issues.