About this disease
What it is about
Anal cancer occurs at the extreme end of the rectum. Risk factors include certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), which are herpes viruses, as well as chronic infections and a weakened immune system. Women are affected far more frequently than men.
Anal carcinomas are squamous cell carcinomas that arise in the anal canal or at the anal margin. Less frequently, adenocarcinomas also occur in this area, as is typical in rectal cancer located higher up. However, much more important than the type of tumor is the localization, the depth of ingrowth into the sphincter and surrounding structures.
Symptoms and consequences
Anal carcinomas are often manifested by bleeding or itchy changes in the anal canal. They become noticeable through blood on the toilet paper, skin changes in the anal canal or on the anal verge that no longer heal, and disturbances of the sphincter muscle with involuntary defecation.
What we do for you
Examination and diagnosis
It is generally advisable to first rule out sexually transmitted diseases. The diagnosis of anal cancer is then usually made by the gastroenterologist. With the help of a tissue sample, it can be determined whether it is actually cancer. The extent of the tumor is particularly important for treatment planning. For this purpose, a computed tomography (CT or PET-CT) scan and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan are performed. They are also used to find out whether the cancer has already spread and metastases are present elsewhere in the body.
If the cancer is limited to the anal canal and the local lymph nodes, there is a possibility of a cure. In this case, combined radio-chemotherapy or a combination of radiation and drug treatment may be considered. In this way, surgery can be bypassed and the function of the sphincter preserved. For anal carcinomas that have already spread and metastasized, no cure is possible. However, to delay further progression of the disease, chemotherapy or subsequent immunotherapy can be used.