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An anal cancer diagnosis is reached through a series of tests that examine the rectum and anus. Many times, the possibility of cancer of the anus and anal cavity can be detected by a digital rectal exam and/or the removal of what is suspected to be a hemorrhoid. Other routine procedures may suggest to a physician that more diagnostic tests should be performed in order to rule out the possibility of anal cancer. These tests may also be ordered if a patient is experiencing one or more of the signs and symptoms of the condition.

Procedures used to diagnose anal cancer

A physician may use one or more of the following procedures to make an accurate anal cancer diagnosis.


An anoscope is a short, hollow tube that is used to examine the lining of the anus and/or rectum. The physician inserts the anoscope into the anus and rectum, and then, since the tube is hollow, a light can be passed through it to give the physician a clear view.

Endorectal ultrasound

For typical ultrasounds, a wand-like probe is moved across the skin, and high-energy sound waves are used to capture pictures. During an endorectal ultrasound, though, the probe is inserted directly into the anus. This imaging test can allow the physician to detect cancer or see how far it has spread.


If a physician suspects cancer following other means of examination, cells or tissues from the affected area are surgically removed so that they can be examined under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. This can be done at the same time as endoscopic procedures such as an anoscopy.

If anal cancer is diagnosed, a physician may order a pelvic CT scan or a pelvic MRI scan to examine the region in order to determine whether the cancer has spread to other tissues. This will allow the physician to describe the nature of the condition by assigning a stage, which plays a part in determining how the cancer needs to be treated.

Treatment options for anal cancer at Moffitt

At Moffitt Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program, our team of surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, nurses and other medical professionals work collaboratively to diagnose the patients under our care, as well as plan and carry out their individualized treatment. Plus, our researchers work diligently to develop and test new therapies through our robust clinical trials program.

If you’re interested in learning more about anal cancer diagnosis techniques, or have other questions, contact Moffitt Cancer Center by calling 1-888-663-3488 or by filling out our online new patient registration form. No referral is needed to meet with our highly specialized anal cancer team.