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Anal Cancer Treatment and Support

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center combines the greatest minds in the field of oncology with advanced treatment and tools to provide leading care and compassionate attention to your needs.

How Is Anal Cancer Treated?

Treatment options depend on a number of factors, including the location, type and stage of the tumor. Most treatment plans include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. In developing a treatment plan, the cancer care team will also take into account your age, overall health and your wishes.


In most cases, surgery is not the first treatment used for anal cancer. The type of operation depends on the type and location of the tumor. Anal cancer surgery is most successful when performed by specialists with a great deal of experience in the particular procedure, performing a large number of anal cancer surgeries every year using the most advanced techniques.

If surgery is needed to treat anal cancer, your surgeon may use one of the following procedures:

  • Local resection: The tumor is surgically removed along with any potentially affected tissues around it.
  • Abdominoperineal resection (APR), also called a colostomy, is when the anus, rectum and part of the colon are removed through an incision in the abdomen. The end of the intestine is then attached to an opening (stoma) in the abdomen. Body waste leaves this opening and is collected in a plastic bag outside the body.


Chemotherapy treatment is designed to destroy cancer cells and prevent new cancer cells from growing, multiplying and dividing. The chemotherapy drugs, dose and treatment schedule will depend on several factors, including the cancer type, tumor size, your age, weight and previous cancer treatments you’ve had.

Most people with anal cancer will need some form of chemotherapy, but it may also be recommended in different situations, such as:

  • Before surgery, which can be done to prevent the need for surgery.
  • After surgery, to try to kill any cancer cells that may have been left behind and reduce the chance of the cancer coming back.
  • If the cancer comes back in the groin lymph nodes, it might be given alone or sometimes with radiation.
  • For metastatic anal cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs, chemotherapy can help keep the cancer under control or relieve the symptoms it's causing.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or particles to kill cancer cells. New radiation therapy techniques allow Banner MD Anderson doctors to target anal cancer tumors more precisely, providing the greatest amount of radiation to cancerous cells with the least damage to healthy cells.

Depending on the stage of the anal cancer and other factors, radiation therapy might be used:

  • As part of the primary treatment effort, along with chemotherapy.
  • After surgery, if your doctor suspects that not all of the cancer was removed or if there is a high risk for the cancer coming back. 
  • To help treat cancer that has come back after initial treatment.
  • To help control metastatic cancer that has spread to distant areas of the body, such as to the lungs or liver.

Targeted Therapies

Innovative targeted therapies are drugs specially designed to treat each cancer’s specific genetic and molecular profile to help your body target the disease without causing much damage to healthy cells. Some targeted therapies block specific enzymes, proteins or other molecules that contribute to the growth and spread of cancer cells. Other types of targeted therapies, called immunotherapies, help the immune system destroy cancer cells by empowering your own immune system to recognize them as harmful. Many of the doctors who treat cancer at Banner MD Anderson are dedicated researchers who have pioneered and actively lead national and international clinical trials with novel targeted agents.

It’s important to discuss all treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. You may feel that you need to make a decision quickly, but it’s important to give yourself time to absorb the information you have learned and ask your multidisciplinary cancer care team at Banner MD Anderson any questions you may have. We are here to treat your cancer and support you through this difficult time. 

Support During Anal Cancer Treatment

We know that a cancer diagnosis can affect more than your body. Having cancer can be an uncertain time and you deserve to have support navigating those difficulties. Banner MD Anderson offers psychological help with cancer from specially trained practitioners, rehabilitation and a supportive survivorship program. Learn more about our comprehensive and supportive cancer care.

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