Treatment for anal cancer
Anal cancer is often treatable when found early.
The treatment you have for anal cancer will depend on:
- the size of the cancer
- where it is
- if it has spread
- your general health
The main treatment for anal cancer is a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, called chemoradiation (or chemoradiotherapy).
Other treatments include chemotherapy or radiotherapy on their own, and surgery.
The specialist care team looking after you will:
- explain the treatments, benefits and side effects
- work with you to create a treatment plan that is best for you
- help you manage any side effects, including any changes to your diet
You'll have regular check-ups during and after any treatments. You may also have tests and scans.
If you have any symptoms or side effects that you are worried about, talk to your specialists. You do not need to wait for your next check-up.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy
To treat anal cancer, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are often used together. This is often called chemoradiation.
Radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is medicine taken to kill cancer cells.
Chemoradiation is usually given if anal cancer has not spread. It means most people with anal cancer do not need to have surgery.
Find out more
Surgery is sometimes used to treat anal cancer.
You may have surgery if:
- the cancer is small and has not spread
- chemoradiation does not get rid of all the cancer, or it comes back
- you are not able to have radiotherapy, for example if you've had radiotherapy in the pelvic area before
Surgery for anal cancer usually involved removing just the part of the anus that is affected.
If the cancer has spread or come back, surgery may involve removing all of the anus, the rectum (which joins the anus to the bowel) and part of the bowel.
This means you'll need to have a pouch (stoma bag) fitted to the outside of your body to collect poo. This is called a colostomy.
If you need a colostomy, you'll be looked after by a specialist stoma nurse. They'll be able to offer you support.
Find out more
Care after your treatment
The clinical nurse specialist, or another member of your specialist team will be able to give you information on follow-up care after treatment.
It may also help to get support from family, friends or a support organisation, if you get anxious before or between appointments.
Macmillan Cancer Support has a free helpline that's open every day from 8am to 8pm.
They're there to listen if you have anything you want to talk about.
Call: 0808 808 00 00
Page last reviewed: 8 March 2021
Next review due: 8 March 2024