Anal Cancer

Anal cancer is cancer of the anus. This is the canal at the end of the large intestine, below the rectum. The anal sphincter is a muscular ring that controls and allows for bowel movements.

There is evidence that human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is linked to many anal cancers. However, most people who have been infected with HPV do not get anal cancer.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your risk of anal cancer include:

  • HPV infection
  • Receptive anal intercourse
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • HIV infection
    diagram view of pelvis and anus
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
  • Use of immunosuppressant drugs
  • Smoking
  • Cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer


Some anal cancers do not have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Anal bleeding with and without a bowel movement
  • Pain or pressure around the anus
  • Itching or discharge from the anus
  • A lump near the anus
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Thinning in the width of the stool


The rectum and anus may need to be examined. This can be done with:

  • Anoscopy
  • Proctoscopy

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy

Images may be taken of your body structures. These may include:

  • Endoscopy
  • Transrectal ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Combined PET/CT scan
  • MRI scan


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Surgery
    • Local Resection
    • Abdominoperineal Resection (APR)


You may be able to reduce your risk of anal cancer by reducing your exposure to HIV and HPV. There is a vaccine available that protects against four types of HPV.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.