What is anal cancer?

Anal cancer is a rare cancer that starts in the anus. This is the opening at the very end of the large bowel. 

Symptoms of anal cancer

Symptoms of anal cancer can include bleeding, bowel changes and severe itching (pruritus). These can also be symptoms of other conditions, but it's important to see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

Getting diagnosed with anal cancer

You usually start by seeing your GP if you have symptoms that could be due to anal cancer. They will ask you about your general health and may also examine you. Your doctor will then decide whether to do tests or refer you to a specialist.


Survival for anal cancer

Survival depends on different factors. So no one can tell you exactly how long you will live. Because this cancer is less common, survival is harder to estimate than for other, more common cancers.

Treatment for anal cancer

Your treatment depends on several factors. The main treatments for anal cancer are surgery, and radiotherapy and chemotherapy combined (chemoradiotherapy).

Stages and types of anal cancer

The stage of anal cancer tells you how big it is and whether it has spread. The type tells you which type of cell the cancer started in.


Research and clinical trials

Current research is looking at ways to improve the diagnosis and treatment of anal cancer. 

Living with anal cancer

Getting practical and emotional support can help you cope with a diagnosis of cancer, life during treatment and life after cancer. This includes support from your clinical nurse specialist, cancer charities, community services, and family and friends.

Risks and causes of anal cancer

Many anal cancers are linked to lifestyle or other risk factors. Having these risk factors does not mean that you will definitely develop cancer.

Last reviewed: 
16 Jun 2022
Next review due: 
16 Jun 2025