Anal Cancer

Quick Facts

Anal Cancer


The anus is the opening at the lower end of the intestines.

As food is digested, it passes from the stomach to the small intestine. It then travels from the small intestine into the main part of the large intestine (called the colon). The colon absorbs water and salt from the digested food. The waste matter that is left after going through the colon is known as feces or stool. Feces are stored in the lower part of the large intestine, called the rectum, which is the final 6 inches of the digestive system. From there, they pass out of the body through the anus as a bowel movement.

Although 20% of anal cancers may be asymptomatic, many cases of anal cancer can be found early because they form in a part of the digestive tract that a doctor can see and reach easily.


Bleeding From the Rectum or Anus
The Feeling of a Lump or Mass at the Anal Opening
Persistent or recurring pain in the Anal Area
Persistent or Recurrent Itching
Change in Bowel Habits
Narrowing of the Stools
Discharge or Drainage (Mucous or Pus) from the Anus
Swollen Lymph Nodes (Glands) in the Anal or Groin Areas

Risk Factors

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Infection
Anal Warts
Having Other Cancers in the Genital Area
HIV Infection
Multiple Sex Partners
More Common in Women Overall


Avoid HIV/HPV Infection
Condom Use
HPV Vaccine
Treating HIV
Not Smoking

Screening Info

Ongoing research is being done on the value of screening tests for anal cancer, especially in people with major risk factors. The test studied most is anal cytology, sometimes called the anal Pap test. This test may be useful in early diagnosis of anal cancer and pre-cancer (called anal intraepithelial neoplasia, or AIN). In this test, cells are gently scraped from the lining layer of the anus and checked under a microscope. Some doctors already recommend this test for people at high risk for anal cancers, such as those who are HIV positive.

Find Support Now

The American Cancer Society says:

“No one need face cancer alone. We are here to provide support every step of the way, from the time you schedule a cancer test through recovery and beyond. We know what you are going through and we can put you in touch with others who can speak from experience. You are not alone. Call us anytime, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at 1-800-227-2345. We can help.”

More @ American Cancer Society

Cancer Portrait Series

Anal Cancer

Artist Corey Scott paints Cancer Survivors’ portraits

Visit the Portrait Page

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