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Anal Cancer: What You Need to Know

Anal cancer is the presence of malignant cancer tissue in the anus, the opening from which your body excretes solid waste. Most anal cancers affect anal squamous epithelial cells, which are flat cells located along the lining of the anus.

Categorizing Anal Cancer

Depending on where the cancer is located, it can be categorized as cancer of the anal canal or cancer of the anal margin. The anal canal is the approximately 1 ½ inch area from the end of the large intestine (rectum) to the anal verge (the junction of the anal canal to outer skin). The anal margin is the skin surrounding the anal verge.

What Causes Anal Cancer?

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, has been closely linked to anal cancer. In addition to a history of HPV infection, other factors that can increase your risk for and could cause anal cancer include:

  • Having a history of cancer in the cervix, vulva or vagina
  • Living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Receiving anal sex
  • Having many sexual partners
  • Using tobacco products, such as cigarettes
  • Receiving an organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive drugs

Common Anal Cancer Symptoms

The symptoms of anal cancer can vary and often occur in the early stages of the condition. You should schedule an appointment with a doctor if you experience these and or other common anal cancer symptoms:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Rectal itching
  • Abnormal discharge from the anus

We Treat Anal Cancer at Tampa General Hospital

Tampa General Hospital’s colorectal oncologists specialize in cancers affecting the gastrointestinal tract, including anal cancer, rectal cancer and colon cancer. If you’ve been diagnosed with anal cancer–or any other colorectal condition–you’ll work closely with our multidisciplinary care team. Comprised of physicians, nurses, surgeons, radiologists, oncologists and other specialists, the team meets regularly to determine the best course of treatment for each patient, with the primary goal of providing comprehensive care, not just cancer care.

In general, radiation, chemotherapy and/or surgery may be recommended, depending on the location, type and stage of your cancer. We always aim to use minimally invasive treatment methods whenever possible to help reduce unnecessary side effects of procedures and ensure the best outcome. One procedure we perform is minimally invasive transanal surgery, involving tumor removal through the anus. Because of our expertise and academic affiliation with the University of Florida, we have become a nationally recognized center for colorectal care and surgeons from across the country visit our facility to learn from our team.

For a physician referral, please use our Physician Finder tool or call 813-844-7585.