Cancer of the anus (anal cancer) is an abnormal growth of cells that form tumors in the anus. The anus is the lower section of the large intestine and rectum where bowel movements pass out of the body. If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is still anal cancer, and is called metastatic anal cancer.
There are different types and stages of anal cancer based on what kind of cancer cells are found, where the tumor started, and where it has spread. Knowing your type and stage of anal cancer helps your healthcare provider decide on the best treatment plan for you. It is important to diagnose and treat anal cancer as soon as possible. The main goals of treatment are to kill the tumor cells, prevent a local cancer from spreading, and prevent metastatic cancer from spreading more than it already has.
There are several things that increase your risk of anal cancer, including: tobacco use, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, having more than one sexual partner, having anal sex, and being over age 50 years.
How can I take care of myself when I go home?
Anal cancer can be cured, depending on where the cancer is located in the anus, how large it was when you were diagnosed, and whether the cancer has spread. How long it takes to get better depends on your treatment, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have. You may need to make lifestyle changes to stay as healthy as possible.
Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins.
Your provider may also prescribe medicine to:
Treat or prevent an infection
Treat or prevent anemia, which means you donâ€™t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to your body. Anemia may be caused by your cancer, your treatment, or other problems.
Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
Soften stool and reduce straining with a bowel movement
Help your immune system fight cancer
If you have had surgery, to care for your surgical wound:
Keep your surgical wound clean.
If you are told to change your dressing on your surgical wound, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
If you have had a colostomy:
A part of your intestine is connected to an opening in your belly, called a stoma. Your bowel movements will empty through the stoma and collect in a disposable bag (pouch) outside your body.
You will need to learn to care for your colostomy. The stoma must be kept clean and pouches must be emptied regularly so that they do not become too heavy and leak. Be sure to follow the manufacturerâ€™s directions for your type of pouch.
Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
You may need other treatments for your cancer after you leave the hospital. Treatments may include:
Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells. Different types of chemotherapy may be given in the hospital, outpatient clinic, or at home.
Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation treatment may be done in the hospital or and outpatient clinic.
Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments and routine tests.
Keep appointments for all other testing you may need, which may be done to look for signs that the cancer has returned or has spread. Testing may include:
Blood tests to check for certain hormones, proteins, or chemicals that may be high if you have cancer.
Bone X-rays: Pictures of your bones to check for cancer.
Bone scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows any areas of bone where the radioactive material is being absorbed.
Chest X-ray: Pictures of the inside of your chest to check for cancer.
Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin cross sections of the anus and other areas where the cancer may have spread.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show thin cross sections of the anus and other areas where the cancer may have spread.
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows areas where the radioactive material is being absorbed.
Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.
Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:
Bowel movement with a large amount of bright red blood
Severe bleeding from your colostomy site
Do not drive yourself if you have any of these symptoms.
Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:
Bloating or pain in your belly
Blood in your bowel movements
Deep bone pain
Change in bowel habits, such as pain, mucus, diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems
Nausea or vomiting
Signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:
The area around your wound is more red or painful
Your wound area is very warm to touch
You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area
You have a fever of 100.5 degrees F (38.1 degrees C) or higher
National Cancer Instituteâ€™s Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237) http://www.cancer.gov
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-12-19 Last reviewed: 2014-10-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Cancer of the Anus Discharge Information: References
Armitage, J. O., Doroshow, J. H., Kastan, M. B., Niederhuber, J. E., & Tepper, J. E. (2014). Cancer of the Anal Canal. Abeloff’s clinical oncology (Fifth ed., p. online). Philadelphia: Saunders.