Rectal bleeding is very common in general population with a prevalence of 10-20 %. Primary care physicians have to stratify patients basing on urgency and on the colo-rectal cancer risk and to conduct a decision making for the correct management. We report a case of a 61-years-old woman, complaining rectal bleeding and an anal mass attended to their family doctor who does a visit but without a digital rectal examination and diagnosed a hemorrhoidal prolapse suggesting medical therapy. For the persistence of symptoms she comes to our service from emergency attention. Inspection and digital rectal examination revealed an anal mass. CT scan was performed showing a large anal mass involving half anal circumference. Histologic samples showed an epithelial proliferation compatible with a squamous carcinoma. Oncological consult was requested and a chemo-radiotherapy treatment was proposed. This case report highlights the difficulty when physicians assess patients with anorectal complaints in differentiating anal cancer from benign disease, presumably because symptoms are similar. Primary care physicians must maintain a high index of suspicion of cancer in high-risk population. Sensitization of these colleagues is required since digital rectal examination is of inestimable value to verify the presence of a rectal or an anal mass.
KEY WORDS: Rectal bleeding - Anal cancer - Prolapse - Digital rectal examination.