Anal cancer is a cancer of the gastrointestinal (digestive) system. It is a rare cancer, which occurs in the opening (anus) of the rectum. In 2007, the American Cancer Society estimates that 1,900 men and 2,750 women will be diagnosed with cancer of the anus, anal canal, and anorectum.
Even though anal cancer is rare, gastroenterologists and surgical oncologists specializing in the gastrointestinal system at The Cancer Center are qualified to diagnose and treat it. Our Cancer Center features these unique and innovative services to treat anal cancer:
- board-certified gastroenterologist, surgical oncologist and medical oncolofists who are highly skilled in the latest technologies and techniques to diagnose, treat, and manage anal cancer
- clinical trials to investigate new medications and treatment methods
- a full range of support services
The Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center has the most advanced technology to diagnose anal cancer. We know that many people can be nervous and squeamish about testing in the anal area. Rest assured that we will make your test as comfortable as possible. Your doctor may recommend the following tests:
- digital rectal exam
- anoscopy (using a lighted scope to view the anus)
- proctoscopy (using a lighted scope to view inside the anal canal)
- transrectal ultrasound (a device inserted into the rectum, which produces sound waves)
- sigmoidoscopy (using a lighted scope to view the lower colon)
- colonoscopy (using a lighted scope to view the entire colon)
- tissue biopsy
- fine needle aspiration biopsy
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- PET scan
Approximately 80 to 90 percent of all anal cancers are caused by infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is spread from person to person during sex. Cancer of the outer part of the anus is more likely to occur in men; cancer of the inner part is more likely to occur in women. If the anus is often red, swollen, and sore, there is a greater chance of getting anal cancer.
Symptoms of anal cancer include bleeding from the rectum (even a small amount), pain or pressure in the area around the anus, itching or discharge from the anus, or a lump near the anus.
The best treatment for anal cancer usually involves the use of two or more approaches. Surgery is a common way. The kind of surgery used depends on the type and location of the cancerous tumor:
- local resection (if the tumor has not spread, the surgeon removes the tumor plus a small amount of non-cancerous tissue around the tumor. In most cases, the sphincter - the muscular ring that opens and closes the anus - will be saved, and you will be able to move your bowels as before.)
- abdominoperineal resection (removal of the anus and part of the rectum through a cut in the abdomen and perineum, the space between the anus and the sexual organs. You will need a colostomy - a permanent opening in the abdomen - for waste to pass out of the body.) This procedure may be avoided by a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Your doctor may recommend external beam radiation therapy to treat your cancer. Radiation therapy may be combined with brachytherapy (the insertion of small rice-like "seeds" containing radiation into the tumor).
A combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be used instead of surgery. The main chemotherapeutic drugs used are 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and mitomycin or a combination of 5-FU and cisplatin.