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Anal cancer treatment will vary, depending on how advanced the cancer is at the time of diagnosis, but most often, it involves some combination of surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. In some cases, the need for surgery is minimized or eliminated by combining radiation and chemotherapy, which may be referred to as "chemoradiation" or "chemoradiotherapy."

What surgeries can be used to treat anal cancer?

If surgery is appropriate as part of a patient’s anal cancer treatment, a surgeon may perform one of two operations:

  • Local resection – If the tumor is small and has not spread, this minimally invasive procedure may be used to excise the affected tissues, perhaps saving the sphincter muscles so that the patient can still control his or her bowel movements.
  • Abdominoperineal resection (APR) – If the tumor has spread, the anus, rectum, lymph nodes and a portion of the sigmoid colon may be removed through surgery with an incision in the abdomen. The surgeon would then sew the end of the intestine to an opening in the abdomen, where a bag is attached for collecting body waste – a procedure known as a "colostomy."

Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer by destroying the cancer cells or by preventing the cells from dividing. Radiation therapy targets the affected tissues with high-energy X-rays to kill the malignant, or cancerous, cells. However, patients with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may need to receive lower doses of chemical and radiation therapy, since these treatments can further damage the already weakened immune systems of HIV-positive individuals.

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program offers some of the most advanced treatments available anywhere. Our surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists and other specialized experts are equipped to offer the most effective treatments to date, and our robust clinical trials program makes cutting-edge treatments available to our patients. The anal cancer team meets weekly as a collaborative tumor board to discuss each patient’s case and to develop individualized treatment plans that are closely monitored during each patient’s time under our care.

Call Moffitt Cancer Center at 1-888-663-3488, or contact us by using our convenient online new patient registration form, to learn more about anal cancer treatment options and to consult with our team of anal cancer experts.