Anal Cancer

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Treating Anal Cancer TOPICS

How is anal cancer treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society's Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don't hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General treatment information

No matter what cell type or stage of anal cancer you have, treatment is available. The choice of treatment you receive depends on many factors. The location, type, and the stage (extent of spread) of the tumor are important. In choosing your treatment plan, you and your cancer care team will also take into account your age, the general state of your health, and your personal preferences.

The 3 main methods of treatment for anal cancer are:

Often the best approach combines 2 or more of these strategies. In the past, surgery was the only treatment that could cure anal cancer, but now most anal cancers are treated with radiation and chemotherapy combined (called chemoradiation or chemoradiotherapy). This approach often eliminates the need for surgery.

For information about some of the most common approaches used based on the extent of the disease, see the section “Treatment of anal cancer by stage.”

Your recovery is the goal of your cancer care team. If the cancer can't be cured, the goal may be to help you live as well as possible for as long as possible. This may involve treatment to remove or destroy as much of the cancer as possible and to prevent the tumor from growing, spreading, or returning for as long as possible. Sometimes, treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms such as pain or bleeding and improving the person's quality of life, even if it will not result in a cure.

It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. You can find some good questions to ask in the section, “What should you ask your doctor about anal cancer?

Last Medical Review: 01/02/2013
Last Revised: 01/02/2013