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Anal Cancer

Anal Cancer

The most common type is squamous cell carcinoma. Other types are basal cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma.

Cause & Risk

Human papilloma virus (HPV): There are over 100 different types of human papilloma virus (HPV). Some types are called the wart virus or genital wart virus as they cause genital warts. Other types have been linked with certain cancers, such as cervical cancer. Some types of HPV are passed on from one person to another through sexual contact. A history of cervical, vaginal or vulval cancer some studies show that if you have had cervical, vulval or vaginal cancer you have a higher risk of developing abnormal cells in the anus or anal cancer than the general population. The risk is also increased for women with a history of abnormal cells in the cervix (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia), vulva (vulval intraepithelial neoplasia) or vagina (vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia). Some studies have shown smoking increases the risk of cancer of the anus. Giving up smoking can reduce your risk of developing many cancers. If you have lowered immunity you are at greater risk of developing anal cancer compared to the general population. You have an increased risk if you have HIV.


Bleeding from the anus, pain, discomfort and itching around the anus. Small lumps around the anus which may be confused with piles (haemorrhoids). Difficulty controlling your bowels (faecal incontinence). Discharge of a jelly-like substance from the anus (mucus). Ulcers around the anus that can spread to the skin of the buttocks

Diagnosis & Treatment

At the hospital, the doctor will examine you and ask about your general health and any previous medical problems. They will do some tests before they can make a firm diagnosis of anal cancer. Treatment: The most common treatment for anal cancer is a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The two treatments are normally given at the same time (chemoradiation) but may be given one following the other. Combined treatment is usually very successful. If radiotherapy and chemotherapy are given at the same time, the side effects can be more severe. Surgery can be used to treat small anal tumours or be used alongside chemotherapy or radiotherapy for advanced anal cancer.

Further Information

It's not unusual to have side effects for a time following treatment for anal cancer. These may include feeling bloated, having wind, diarrhoea and occasional incontinence. These side effects can be distressing but are usually temporary and improve over several months. Your doctor, nurse or dietician will be able to give you advice about how to manage any side effects. You will be followed up for between 5-10 years. If you have side effects which persist, you may be referred to another specialist for advice and treatment.

Recommended Links

Macmillan Cancer Website -

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