Anal Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment

From diagnosis through treatment and recovery, you’ll find world-class care for anal cancer at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. Our team of expert caregivers includes medical oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, radiation oncologists and nurses who work together to personalize each patient's care. The team will answer questions and provide the information and guidance needed for informed patient decisions.

Anal cancer diagnosis

Anal cancer cases have increased over the past several decades, and this increase may be related to the increase in human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, and has been shown to be involved in the majority of anal cancer cases.

Although most people with anal cancer have no symptoms, some symptoms can include:

  • Pain or pressure in the anal area
  • Unusual discharge from the anus
  • Lump near the anus
  • Change in bowel habits

These symptoms should be evaluated as soon as possible. When found early, anal cancer is highly treatable.

Anal cancer treatment

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is a leader in state-of-the-art treatment options that include treatment of precancerous lesions, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

In most cases, treatment allows patients to avoid surgery altogether. Patients at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health may join a number of national research studies that help identify the best approaches to treatment and prevention. These studies give you access to cancer care not yet available to the general public. Anal cancer is a cancer of emphasis at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, so you can expect to be offered multiple treatment options and clinical trials.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is used to destroy fast-growing cancer cells to achieve a high cure rate and avoid the need for a colostomy, and subsequently using a colostomy bag. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, a combination of both intravenous and oral therapy is used to optimize outcomes. Recent studies have shown there are new chemotherapy medications that are more effective and have fewer side effects compared to past treatments. Learn more about chemotherapy

Radiation therapy

Radiation is a key therapy for anal cancer and is given externally with advanced techniques to maximize efficacy and decrease the effects on normal healthy tissues. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, imaging tests are used to accurately determine the areas that require radiation. Recent studies indicate that not all anal cancers require the same radiation dose so treatment can be customized for each person’s cancer. Learn more about radiation therapy

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a treatment that boosts the body's immune response against cancer cells. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, people with advanced anal cancer may be eligible for specialized drugs, and ongoing studies are available to determine if additional immunotherapy medications can further improve outcomes. Researchers are also evaluating the role of adding additional immunotherapy medications.

Surgery

Surgery can involve removal or destruction of the tumor in very early stages of anal cancer, or, in more advanced stages, removing the entire anal canal. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, this is done using minimally invasive techniques like laparoscopic or robotic surgery. Often, the operation is done jointly with urologists, gynecologic oncologists and plastic surgeons, depending on the extent of cancer involvement.

Prompt access to care

New patients often see a provider the same day they call, allowing therapy to begin as soon as possible, as early detection and treatment are key for long-term survival. Care before and after treatment is designed to rapidly restore health and get patients back to normal activity as soon as possible. Cases are reviewed by our anal cancer tumor board—a multidisciplinary group of experts—ensuring the best treatment is matched with each individual patient.

Anal cancer second opinions

If you’ve been diagnosed with anal cancer, learn more about second opinions and how they may help you find all your available treatment options.

Anal cancer research and clinical trials

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is a leader in cancer research. Learn more about research and clinical trial options

Anal cancer wellness and support

Cancer treatment includes more than just treating physical symptoms. Learn more about our comprehensive wellness and support services

Anal cancer specialists

To learn more about anal cancer care or to make an appointment, find a specialist near you.