Anal Cancer Overview

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Treating Anal Cancer TOPICS

Surgery for anal cancer

Surgery is no longer the standard option for most people with anal cancer. In people who do need surgery, the kind of operation depends on the type and place of the tumor.

Local resection

A local resection may be done if the cancer has not spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes. In this operation, only the tumor and a small area of tissue around the tumor are removed. In most cases the muscle that opens and closes the anus (called the sphincter muscle) is saved. If so, you will be able to have bowel movements as usual afterwards.

Abdominoperineal resection (APR)

This more involved approach is used for cancer that has spread. For this surgery, the doctor makes a cut through the belly (abdomen) and in the area between the anus and the sex organs. Then the anus and part of the rectum are removed. This surgery is not often needed when radiation and chemotherapy are used to treat the cancer. An APR is usually done only if other treatments do not work.

After an APR you will need to have a new opening made in your lower belly (abdomen) to pass stool. This opening is called a colostomy. Stool passes through this opening into a bag attached outside the body. If you would like to know more about colostomies, call the American Cancer Society and ask for Colostomy: A Guide.


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