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Screening for anal cancer

Find out why there is no screening programme for anal cancer.

Screening looks for early signs of disease before there are any symptoms.

No screening available

There is no national screening programme because:

  • this condition is very rare, so many people would have unnecessary tests
  • the benefits don't outweigh the costs

What to do if you think you're at risk

Talk to your GP if you think you might be at higher than average risk of developing anal cancer: for example, if you have a medical condition that increases your risk.

What screening is

Screening means testing people for early stages of an illness before they have any symptoms. For screening to be useful the tests:

  • must be reliable at picking up the illness
  • must be simple and quick
  • shouldn’t show that someone has the illness when they don’t (false positive results)
  • must not cause any harm

Not all screening tests are helpful and they can have risks.

Screening in the UK

With uncommon illnesses, it is most cost effective to screen people who doctors think are at a higher risk.

Researchers are looking at screening people who are at higher risk of developing anal cancer. In the ANALOGY study, doctors tested people who are thought to be at higher risk of having the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The doctor biopsied people who had HPV. They wanted to find out whether people found the screening test acceptable. And they also wanted to find out how well the test worked. This trial is now closed. We are waiting for the results.

Information and help

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.​