Pain in the buttocks can be uncomfortable and concerning. Several conditions may cause pain in the buttocks, and the likelihood it’s caused by cancer is very low. Most causes of buttocks pain are nothing to worry about. However, in rare cases, persistent, unexplainable pain is a sign of a serious underlying medical condition, such as cancer.
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Buttocks' pain can make it challenging to perform your daily activities. Your buttocks are extremely important to your mobility and comfort. Pain in the region can make it hard to sit or walk.
The main components of the buttocks are the gluteal muscles. Your gluteal muscles help you sit, stand, and move. They also relieve pressure on other parts of the body, such as the knees and lower back.
While not part of the buttocks, the anus is in the same region and is located between the two buttocks. Because of their proximity, issues with the anus and connected structures can trigger buttocks pain.
Several types of cancer, including anal cancer, affect the tissue in the buttocks region and can lead to pain. As a cancerous tumor grows, the autoimmune system works to fight against it, causing inflammation. The body's inflammatory response is a natural defense against infection and mediates tissue repair and regeneration, which results from infectious or noninfectious tissue damage.
Symptoms such as pain and swelling in the area surrounding cancerous tissue are common. However, these symptoms can vary in intensity and may even disappear over time. A tumor can also cause compression of the many nerves in the buttocks, causing a different type of pain.
Sometimes cancer causes no symptoms at all. However, a common first sign of anal cancer is minor or severe bleeding. So if you have buttocks pain and bleeding, while it’s unlikely you have cancer, you should see your doctor to confirm the cause of your symptoms.
While it may disrupt your routine for a few days, buttocks pain is rarely a cause for concern. Many conditions can cause buttocks pain, including:
Strain or sprain
Sciatica (where spinal dysfunctions cause compression of the sciatic nerve)
Piriformis syndrome (when the piriformis muscle in the buttocks spasms and pinches the sciatic nerve)
Intense physical activity or a new workout routine
Sitting for too long
If you’re experiencing buttocks pain that can’t be attributed to one of the less serious conditions listed above, such as hemorrhoids, constipation, sciatica, or an intense gym session, you may worry about cancer.
Your doctor can perform the appropriate physical examinations, assessments, and scans, but knowing more about anal cancer can help ease your mind while you work to identify the cause of your buttock pain.
Anal cancer often causes no symptoms at all. However, when there are symptoms, the earliest sign is often bleeding, which is usually minor. In addition to bleeding from the rectum, some other symptoms of anal cancer include:
Itching in the rectum or the surrounding area
A lump or mass at the anal opening
Pain or a sense of fullness in the anal region
Changes in bowel movements, such as a narrowing of the stool
Abnormal discharge from the anus
Loss of bowel control (incontinence)
Swollen lymph nodes in the anal or groin regions
Usually, all these symptoms are caused by benign conditions, such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or anal warts. However, it’s best to see a doctor who can identify the cause of your symptoms and recommend the appropriate treatment.
A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease, such as cancer. Some risk factors, like smoking or diet, can be changed, while others, such as your age or family history, can't.
Several factors can increase your risk of developing anal cancer. However, having one or several risk factors does not necessarily mean you will get cancer. Many people with risk factors never develop anal cancer, while others with few or no known risk factors develop the condition.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most critical risk factor for anal cancer. HPV is a group of over 150 related viruses. This is the same group of viruses responsible for causing cervical cancer and other forms.
HPV infection is common, and usually, the body can fight the infection. However, sometimes the condition persists and becomes chronic. When caused by specific high-risk HPV types, chronic infection can lead to certain cancers, including anal cancer.
Some types of HPV are considered high-risk because they have a strong link to cancers, including cancer of the cervix, vulva, and vagina in women and penile cancer in men. HPV is also associated with an increased risk of anal, mouth, and throat cancer in both men and women.
Other types of HPV can cause warts in or around the anal area and on the genital organs. However, these types of HPV are considered low-risk and are rarely linked to cancer. While there is no cure for HPV infection, treatments can help control warts and abnormal cell growth associated with the condition.
People with anal or genital warts have an increased risk of developing anal cancer. This is because people infected with HPV subtypes linked to anal or genital warts have an increased chance of being infected with HPV subtypes that cause anal cancer.
Women who have had cervix, vagina, or vulva cancer have an increased risk of anal cancer because these forms of cancer are also caused by HPV infection.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS, and those infected have an increased risk of developing anal cancer.
Engaging in sex with multiple partners increases your risk of becoming infected with HIV or HPV and also increases your risk of anal cancer. Anal sex also increases the risk of anal cancer in both men and women, placing men who engage in sexual activity with men at a higher risk of developing this cancer.
Smoking increases the risk of several types of cancer, including anal cancer. In addition, the risk is higher as a person's pack per year history increases. Quitting seems to reduce the risk, with current smokers more likely to develop anal cancer than former smokers.
A compromised immune system is another risk factor for anal cancer. People with reduced immunity, such as organ transplant recipients, people with AIDS, or those who take medicines that suppress their immune system, have an increased risk of developing anal cancer.
Anal cancer is a rare disease that can be challenging to diagnose for several reasons. First, the symptoms of anal cancer are often similar to those caused by other medical conditions. Additionally, doctors may not have experience with the disease because it’s rare, and information may be limited.
A doctor or other healthcare provider will begin the diagnostic process by assessing your medical history and performing a physical exam. During the exam, your healthcare provider will ask questions about your current symptoms.
They will also ask about your medical history, including medications, allergies, social history, and your family's medical history. They may also review your medical records, including the results of any previous tests or procedures.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam to check for physical signs of a medical issue. While the methods used during the exam may vary depending on your symptoms, they commonly include:
Checking your vital signs, including height, weight, temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
Examining your body for abnormal findings or changes may help form a diagnosis.
Physically touching areas of your body to check for pain, tenderness, swelling, lumps, or masses.
Listening to the sounds of your heart, lungs, and abdominal organs.
Checking for the presence of air, liquid, or solid structures by tapping on specific body areas.
Check your reflexes, nerves, coordination, sensory function, and motor function, such as strength and balance, to evaluate your neurological system.
Depending on your medical history and physical exam results, your doctor will decide whether lab tests are needed. These tests may include imaging assessments, clinical procedures, or referrals to other medical specialists, if necessary, to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.
Once diagnosed with anal cancer, your medical team will discuss treatment options. One of the primary goals of treatment is to save the anal sphincter muscles. Preserving these muscles will ensure that you can control your bowels, reducing the impact on your overall quality of life.
Your treatment options depend on many factors, including the location, type, and stage of your cancer. In addition, your medical team will consider your age, overall health, and personal preferences.
The are several options for treating anal cancer, including:
While most causes of buttocks pain are minor and resolve without treatment, it’s essential to see a doctor if your pain is unexplainable, doesn’t resolve in a reasonable timeframe, or is debilitatingly severe.
A doctor can help you understand what’s causing your buttock's pain and can help you lessen the pain and prevent it from returning. While it’s highly unlikely, if your doctor determines your buttocks pain is linked to cancer, they’ll create a customized treatment plan.
With cancer, early diagnosis significantly improves outcomes, so don’t hesitate to seek medical advice if you have symptoms or risk factors for anal cancer.
Pain in the buttocks is uncomfortable. While pain in the buttocks can make it difficult to function normally and participate in daily activities, it is usually not a sign of cancer. Various factors can cause buttocks pain, and while it's usually nothing to worry about, you should consult a doctor to determine the cause and the appropriate treatment.