What are the treatments for anal cancer?

As with most types of cancer, treating anal cancer depends on what type of cancer it is and how far it has spread past the point where it started. More so than with other cancers, the size of the cancer site is significant. In any case, your healthcare provider might provide you with information on participating in a clinical trial of treatment when it is appropriate.

Anal cancers in the early stage that have not entered the anal wall can be treated by removing the affected skin entirely. Even some smaller tumors (under one-half inch in size) that have grown into the anal wall can be removed surgically. These early stage and smaller tumors usually do not require further treatment with radiation or chemotherapy. This surgery is called local excision.

Radiation therapy uses equipment that focuses high-energy X-rays or particle streams at cancer cells in the body.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Some chemotherapy can be taken by mouth, while other drugs must be given through the vein or as a shot into muscle.

There is a surgical treatment called abdominoperineal resection (APR). APR removes cancer cells in the anus, rectum and large intestine by cutting into the abdomen. APR might also remove lymph nodes which have become cancerous. APR is used when the cancer does not respond to other methods or if the cancer comes back. If you have APR, you will need to have a permanent colostomy. In this case, part of the colon is taken out and the remaining part opens into the stoma on the abdomen. The stoma is covered by a pouch so that stool may exit the body.

What are the complications or side effects of anal cancer treatment?

All treatments may have side effects. If you have any issues with side effects of any treatment, please be sure to talk to your healthcare provider. The provider will be able to help you find different ways of coping.

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