Home > Health & Wellness > Health Library > Anal Cancer
Anal cancer is not the same as cancer of the colon or rectum. To learn about these cancers, see the topic Colorectal 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.
Like other cancers, anal cancer can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. To find out how severe your cancer is, your doctor will classify it by stage and grade.
Some problems, such as infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) and anal warts, can lead to anal cancer. Other things that can increase the risk for anal cancer include having many sex partners, receptive anal intercourse (anal sex), infection with HIV, and smoking cigarettes.
The symptoms of anal cancer include:
The doctor will examine the anus and rectum. A digital rectal exam is often done. If anal cancer is suspected, your doctor will want to do a biopsy.
To see if the cancer has spread, the doctor may do a:
Treatment for anal cancer often includes radiation and chemotherapy (chemoradiation). Sometimes surgery is needed. Your treatment and how well it works depends on the stage of the cancer and your general health.
Radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery can have serious side effects. But your medical team will help you manage the side effects of your treatment. If you have chemotherapy or radiation, you may need medicines to control nausea and vomiting. If you have surgery, you may need medicines for pain.
Fatigue is common with cancer treatment. But staying active and eating well before, during, and after your treatment may help you have more energy.
Talk with your doctor and medical team about any side effects.
You may be interested in taking part in research studies called clinical trials. Clinical trials are based on the most up-to-date information. They carefully study the use of new treatments and new combinations of current treatments.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about anal cancer:
Taking care of yourself:
Other Works Consulted
Jiang Y, et al. (2011). Cancer of the anal region. In VT DeVita Jr et al., eds., DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology, 9th ed., pp. 1142–1153. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
National Cancer Institute (2012). Anal Cancer Treatment (PDQ)—Patient Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/anal/Patient/page1/AllPages.
Current as of:
January 4, 2013
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kenneth Bark, MD - General Surgery,
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