Anal Cancer

Conditions Basics

What is anal cancer?

Anal cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the anus, which is the opening at the end of the rectum. Anal cancer is not common and is often curable. But like other cancers, it can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

What causes it?

Some problems can lead to anal cancer, such as HPV infection and anal warts. Other things that can increase the risk for anal cancer include having many sex partners, receiving anal intercourse, being infected with HIV, and smoking cigarettes.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of anal cancer include bleeding from the anus, itching or discharge from the anus, a lump near the anus, and redness, swelling, or pain in the area of the anus.

How is it diagnosed?

To diagnose anal cancer, a doctor will examine the anus and rectum. A digital rectal exam is often done. If anal cancer is suspected, the doctor will do a biopsy.

To see if the cancer has spread, the doctor may do tests, such as a:

How is anal cancer treated?

Treatment for anal cancer is based on the stage of the cancer and other things, such as your overall health. Treatment options may include:

Radiation therapy.

This uses high-dose X-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors.

Chemotherapy.

These medicines kill fast-growing cells, including cancer cells and some normal cells. Often chemotherapy and radiation are given together. This is called chemoradiation.

Surgery.

In some cases, surgery is needed. If the area with cancer is very small, often a doctor can remove the tumor and a small amount of normal tissue around it.

Sometimes a clinical trial may be a good choice.

Your doctor will talk with you about your options and then make a treatment plan.

Credits

Current as of: December 17, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Jimmy Ruiz MD - Hematology, Oncology