Anal Cancer

Anal cancer is an uncommon cancer that develops in the anal opening or in the anal canal, which is about 1.5 inches long and connects between the last part of the intestines to the outside of the body. The inner lining of the anal canal, known as the mucosa, is made up of different types of cells. With anal cancer, normal cells in this area begin to grow out of control and invade surrounding tissue. Most anal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, which are tumors that develop from the squamous cells that line the anal canal.

About 20 percent of anal cancers have no symptoms, but most with the disease will notice signs such as bleeding from the anus, a lump or mass at the anal opening, persistent pain and itching, narrowing stools, or a draining or discharge from the anus. Most of these symptoms also can also be caused by less serious conditions such as hemorrhoids. Anal cancer is fairly uncommon, but there are risk factors. It is most often discovered in patients who are infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV), but it can develop in patients without the virus. Men and women who engage in anal sex also are at increased risk.

Why UAB

Patients who choose UAB Medicine to treat their anal cancer will be seen by the UAB Multidisciplinary Colorectal Cancer Clinic, a “one-stop shop” where patients visit with multiple specialists on the same day and leave that initial appointment with a customized treatment plan. Opened in 2018, the clinic features a range of medical professionals in a single location, including medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgical oncologists. This collaborative approach helps ensure seamless coordination among cancer specialists and enables treatment to begin sooner. Appointments are available within one week.

The clinic is part of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, where cutting-edge cancer research is being conducted, so patients may be eligible for medications and treatments through clinical trials that aren’t available at most other medical centers. We understand that a anal cancer diagnosis can be stressful for patients, so we provide a nurse navigator to help organize your visit. Our highly trained nurse navigators streamline your care at UAB Medicine by arranging for your medical records, setting your appointments, and guiding you throughout the process, which helps give you peace of mind and allows your treatment team to deliver more efficient care.

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Related Treatments

Depending on your case and your physician’s assessment, your condition may be treated using one or more various procedures. Some of those procedures are listed below for your convenience. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list and may vary depending on your specific diagnosis.

Clinical Trials

UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of anal cancer. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

View Clinical Trials