Anal cancer

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Treatments for anal cancer

If you have anal cancer, your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your needs and specific information about the cancer. When deciding which treatments to offer for anal cancer, your healthcare team will consider:

  • the stage of the cancer
  • the size and location of the tumour
  • your general health
  • your personal preferences

You may be offered a combination of the following treatments for anal cancer.


Chemoradiation is the main treatment for most anal cancers. This treatment combines radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The 2 treatments are given during the same time period.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is often used to treat anal cancer. It is usually given as part of chemoradiation. It may also be used alone if treatment with chemoradiation didn’t destroy all the cancer cells.

External beam radiation therapy is the most common type of radiation used for anal cancer. Brachytherapy, or internal radiation therapy, may be an option in some cases.


Chemotherapy is often used to treat anal cancer. It is usually given as part of chemoradiation. It may also be used alone for stage IV or recurrent anal cancer.

The most common chemotherapy drugs used include:

  • 5-fluorouracil (5-FU, Adrucil)
  • mitomycin (Mutamycin)
  • cisplatin (Platinol AQ)


Depending on the stage and size of the tumour, you may have one of the following types of surgery.

Wide local excision, or local resection, removes the tumour along with a margin of healthy tissue around it. This surgery is mainly used to remove anal tumours in the earliest stages. It is sometimes used to remove an advanced tumour that causes symptoms.

Abdominoperineal resection is done when chemoradiation doesn’t destroy all the cancer or cancer comes back after chemoradiation. The surgeon removes the rectum, anus, anal sphincter and muscles around the anus.

Inguinal lymph node dissection is done to remove lymph nodes in the groin that have cancer in them.

Follow-up care

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. You will need to have regular follow-up visits, especially in the first 5 years after treatment has finished. These visits allow your healthcare team to monitor your progress and recovery from treatment.

Clinical trials

A few clinical trials in Canada are open to people with anal cancer. Clinical trials look at new and better ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.

Questions to ask about treatment

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about treatment.


Canadian Cancer Trials Group researcher Dr Wendy Parulekar The Canadian Cancer Trials Group found that extending hormone therapy keeps breast cancer at bay.

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Taking action against all cancers

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The latest Canadian Cancer Statistics report found that of all newly diagnosed cancers in 2017, half are expected to be lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers. Learn what you can do to reduce the burden of cancer.

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