Anal Cancer

Anal cancer starts in the anus. The anus is the opening at the lower end of the intestines and connects the outside of the body. Anal cancer starts when cells begin to grow out of control. Sometimes, treatment may be different, depending on where the cancer is located. But anal cancers can sometimes extend from one area of the anus into the other, so it’s hard to know exactly where they started.
Cancer Care of North Florida will take careful steps stage and grade the tumor to assess the best way to create and manage your treatment plan. Our goal is to achieve the very best outcome while preserving your quality of life.

There are a few types of anal cancer tumors which include:

  • Squamous cell carcinomas (most common)
  • Adenocarcinomas
  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma
  • GI stromal tumors (GIST)

The level of invasiveness is determined by diagnostic testing and imaging.

What are the risk factors for Anal Cancer?

It may be possible to avoid some risk factors for anal cancer, but some are out of your control. The best plan is to catch it early. Lifestyle and hereditary factors include:

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Anal warts
  • Having certain other cancers (vaginal, vulva)
  • HIV infection
  • Sexual activity
  • Smoking
  • Lowered immunity
  • Family history of anal cancer
  • Race/ethnicity/gender

Symptoms of Anal Cancer Include:

  • A lump or mass at the anal opening
  • Itching in or around the rectum
  • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
  • Abnormal discharge from anus
  • Pain or feeling fullness in the anal area
  • Narrowing of stool or other changes in bowel movements
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Swollen lymph nodes in groin or anal areas
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Many of these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than anal cancer such as infection, hemorrhoids, or fissures or anal warts. Sometimes anal cancer causes no symptoms at all. But bleeding is often the first sign of the disease. The bleeding is usually minor. At first, most people assume the bleeding is caused by hemorrhoids (painful, swollen veins in the anus and rectum that may bleed). Hemorrhoids are a benign and a common cause of rectal bleeding.

Anal Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

At Cancer Care of North Florida, once cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists will order diagnostic testing and imaging to help determine the stage and extent of the disease. It is very important to do a comprehensive anal cancer work-up to carefully evaluate the extent of the cancer.

  • Medical history and physical exam
  • Testing for blood in the stool
  • Routine blood tests
  • Blood tests for tumor markers
  • Anoscopy
  • Rigid proctosigmoidoscopy
  • Endoscopy
  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Chest x-ray
  • PET imaging
  • Biopsy and molecular assessment

Depending on the type and stage (severity) of the colorectal cancer, the following treatments may be necessary. At Cancer Care of North Florida, we use the most advanced therapies available to treat anal cancer. An individualized plan of care may include multiple types of treatments.

Types of surgical procedures for anal cancer include:

Local resection – removes the tumor plus a small amount of normal tissue
Abdominoperineal resection (APR) – Removal of anus, rectum, and colon. This procedure is rare as chemo and radiation help to avoid this major operation.

Other forms of non-surgical interventions for anal cancer include:

Radiation – Any remaining cancer cells left after surgery are destroyed with high-energy radiation beams. For some anal cancer, treating with chemotherapy at the same time can make radiation therapy work better. It is possible to receive radiation therapy before, during or after surgical intervention. Also, when surgery is not possible, radiation can be used to help slow the growth of the tumor. We work closely with Cancer Care of North Florida Radiation Oncology located on campus.
Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy (chemo) are anti-cancer drugs that may be given intravenously (injected into your vein) or by mouth. The drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells in most parts of the body. Chemotherapy can sometimes be given before, during or after surgery. At Cancer Care of North Florida, our team provide extensive education and supportive care through your therapy.
Targeted Treatments – Targeted drugs work differently from chemo drugs. They sometimes work when chemo drugs don’t, and they often have different side effects. They can be used either along with chemotherapy or by themselves if chemotherapy is no longer working. Targeted treatment options are determined by further genetic testing of the tumor cells. This type of testing is usually done on the biopsied tissue of the tumor cells.
Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy is the use of medicines to help a person’s own immune system better recognize and destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy can be used to treat some people with advanced anal cancer.

Why Choose Us?

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with anal cancer, it is crucial to work with a team of cancer experts who not only have extensive experience, but also a strong track record for achieving the best possible outcome for their patients. While this type of cancer is treatable, the dedicated team Cancer Care of North Florida will initially stage and treat this form of cancer and monitor and treat cancer recurrence or complications that may occur later.

At Cancer Care of North Florida, our physicians are highly specialized in treating multiple types of cancer with the most advanced techniques. Using a team approach, we strive for excellence. We work with each patient to specifically tailor their treatment to their own clinical situation. One of the common diseases that we treat is anal cancer.

  • Highly trained, collaborative oncology specialists all currently taking new patients
  • Consultation appointments scheduled within 3-5 days of referral and in some cases same-day appointments available
  • One-stop campus for comprehensive diagnositics and treatment for many types of cancer including radiation, chemotherapy infusion, lab draws and imaging services
  • Onsite infusion center offers comfortable, home-like setting
  • In-office lab testing
  • In-office medication dispensary
  • Open, immediate access to outpatient symptom management
  • 24-hour physician coverage
  • COPI-certified clinical trials
  • We accept most insurance plans including Medicare, Medicaid, and VA