Anal Cancer Overview

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After Treatment TOPICS

Moving on after treatment for anal cancer

For some people with anal cancer, treatment may remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment but find it hard not to worry about cancer coming back. (When cancer comes back after treatment, it is called recurrence.) This is a very common concern in people who have had cancer.

It may take a while before your fears lessen. But it may help to know that many cancer survivors have learned to live with this uncertainty and are living full lives. Our document, Living with Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence gives more detailed information on this.

For other people, the cancer may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatments to try to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty. Our document, When Cancer Doesn't Go Away, talks more about this.

Follow-up care

After your treatment is over, follow-up is very important. During these visits, your doctors will ask about symptoms, do physical exams, and order blood or imaging tests. Follow-up is needed to watch for treatment side effects and to check for cancer that has come back or spread.

Follow-up doctor visits after chemoradiation may be scheduled as often as every 3 months for at least 2 years. During these visits, your doctor will ask about symptoms and do a physical exam, which will include a rectal exam and an exam of the anus. Blood tests and imaging studies such as CT scans or x-rays may also be ordered.

Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks or months, but others can be permanent. Please tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects that bother you so they can help you manage them. Use this time to ask your health care team questions and discuss any concerns you might have.

It is also important to keep health insurance. While you hope your cancer won’t come back, it could happen. If it does, you don't want to have to worry about paying for treatment. Should your cancer come back, our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence helps you manage and cope with this phase of your treatment.

For patients with colostomies

Permanent colostomies are rarely needed now in the treatment of anal cancer. If you have a colostomy, follow-up is an important concern. You may feel worried or isolated. But there are nurses with special training to help people with their colostomies. They can teach you how to take care of your colostomy. Ask the American Cancer Society about programs offering information and support in your area. For more information on colostomies, refer to the American Cancer Society document, Colostomy: A Guide.

Seeing a new doctor

At some point after your cancer is found and treated, you might find yourself in the office of a new doctor who does not know about your cancer. It is important that you be able to give your new doctor the exact details of your diagnosis and treatment. Make sure you have this information handy and always keep copies for yourself:

  • A copy of your pathology report from any biopsy or surgery
  • If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report
  • If you were in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that the doctor wrote when you were sent home from the hospital
  • If you had radiation treatment, a copy of the treatment summary
  • If you had chemotherapy (or other drugs), a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
  • Copies of your x-rays and imaging tests (these can be put onto a DVD)

Last Medical Review: 01/14/2013
Last Revised: 04/18/2014