Anal cancer

NHS Choices information about anal cancer, with links to other useful resources.

Key Information

Content produced by Your.MD

What should I do?

If you think you have this condition you should see a doctor within 48 hours.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and perform a digital rectal examination (DRE). This involves using a gloved and lubricated finger to internally examine the back passage. If your doctor suspects cancer, they may refer you to a specialist for a sigmoidoscopy or proctoscopy (a thin hollow tube inserted into the back passage to check for abnormalities). If a lump is seen, a sample (biopsy) may be taken for further investigation.

What is the treatment?

The main treatments for anal cancer are:

  • chemoradiation (a combination of anti-cancer drugs and radiation to shrink the tumour)
  • surgery to remove the tumour.

Anal cancer, or cancer of the anus, is a rare type of cancer that is slightly more common in women than men.

About 850 people are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year in the UK.

Although the cause is unknown, more than eight out of 10 people diagnosed with anal cancer have an human papilloma virus (HPV) infection.

The most common symptoms of anal cancer are pain and bleeding from the anus.


The outlook for anal cancer depends on how advanced it is when you are diagnosed. About 6 out of 10 men and 7 out of 10 women will live for at least 5 years. These are overall figures and include all stages of anal cancer.

Want to know more?

Health A-Z: cancer

Cancer Research UK: anal cancer

Macmillan: anal cancer

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