Anal cancer is not the same as cancer of the colon or rectum. To learn about these cancers, see the topic Colorectal Cancer.
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.
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.
What causes anal cancer?
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.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of anal cancer include:
Bleeding from the anus.
Redness, swelling, or pain in the area of the anus.
Itching or discharge from the anus.
A lump near the anus.
How is anal cancer diagnosed?
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.
Get some physical activity every day. Ask a friend to take a walk with you.
Eat healthy foods. Foods with protein and extra calories can help you stay strong and prevent weight loss. Try liquid meal replacements.
Eat smaller meals more often, or eat your main meal early.
Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated.
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.
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The American Cancer Society (ACS) conducts educational
programs and offers many services to people with cancer and to their families.
Staff at the toll-free number have information about services and activities
in local areas and can provide referrals to local ACS divisions.
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
6116 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20892-8322
https://livehelp.cancer.gov/app/chat/chat_launch for live help
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a U.S. government
agency that provides up-to-date information about the prevention, detection,
and treatment of cancer. NCI also offers supportive care to people who have cancer
and to their families. NCI information is also available to doctors, nurses,
and other health professionals. NCI provides the latest information about
clinical trials. The Cancer Information Service, a service of NCI, has trained
staff members available to answer questions and send free publications.
Spanish-speaking staff members are also available.
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.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.