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Anal Cancer: Treatment Choices

You may have questions and concerns about your treatment options. You may also want to know how you’ll feel, how your body will function after treatment, and if you’ll have to change your normal activities.

Your cancer care provider is the best person to answer your questions. He or she can tell you what your treatment choices are, how well they may work, and what the risks and side effects are. Your healthcare provider may suggest a specific treatment. Or he or she may offer more than one. Then you can decide which one you’d like to use.

It can be hard to make this decision. It’s important to take the time you need to make the best choice. Talk with your healthcare provider about how much time you can take to explore your options.

Types of treatment for anal cancer

The type of treatment that is best for you depends on a number of factors. These include the type of tumor, its size and location, and whether it has spread beyond your anus. Factors also include your age, overall health, and what side effects you can stand.

Different types of treatment have different goals. Below is a list of anal cancer treatments and their goals. You may have more than 1 of these treatments:

  • Radiation therapy. The goal of this treatment is to kill cancer cells using X-rays. This is a common treatment for anal cancer. Radiation can be used with or without chemotherapy (chemo).

  • Chemotherapy. Chemo uses medicines to kill cancer cells. It can cause the tumor to shrink. Chemo combined with radiation therapy is used to treat, and even cure, most anal cancers without the need for surgery.

  • Surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor from your anus, while leaving as much of the anus as possible intact. In most cases, surgery for anal cancer is not needed.

Second opinion before deciding on a treatment plan

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with anal cancer, you may want to consider getting a second opinion. Some insurance companies require a second opinion. The peace of mind a second opinion provides may be well worth the effort. 

Clinical trials

Research is ongoing in the field of anal cancer. New medicines and treatments are tested in clinical trials. Before starting treatment, ask your healthcare provider if there are any clinical trials you should check on.

Working with your healthcare provider

Your healthcare provider will help you make a treatment plan. Talking about your treatment choices will be one of the most important meetings you'll have with your healthcare provider. Ask any questions you might have and be sure you understand the answers. You may want to include a family member or friend in these discussions.

Online Medical Reviewer: Gersten, Todd, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2016
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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