Dr. Steven Nurkin interacts with a colleague in clinic

Anal Cancer Diagnosis

Several types of exams and imaging may detect and diagnose cancer of the anus. These include:

  • Anal Pap Smear: Cells are collected from the anus with a small swab or cotton-tipped rod, which are then examined under a microscope.
  • Digital Rectal Exam (DRE): A physician inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the anus to feel for any unusual lumps or growths.
  • Anoscopy/Proctoscopy: A physician examines the anus and/or rectum using a short, lighted tube.
  • Endo-anal or endorectal ultrasound: A probe is inserted into the anus or rectum, producing an image using sound waves.
  • Biopsy: This is done endoscopically or as an outpatient surgical procedure.

Imaging and biopsy

To help guide treatment decisions, and learn about the extent of your disease, you will likely undergo some of the following:

  • Computed Tomography (CT): A series of detailed pictures are taken from various angles and put together by a computer to offer a detailed picture inside the body.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A type of imaging that uses a magnet, radio waves and a computer to create a picture inside the body.
  • Abdominal/Pelvic CT or MRI: For cases of anal cancer this determines extent of disease and whether other organs or lymph nodes are involved.
  • Chest CT: This determines if cancer has spread to the lungs.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET): A small amount of radioactive glucose or sugar is injected and the PET scanner can picture where glucose is being used in the body.
  • Gynecologic exam, for women: This includes a screening for cervical cancer.
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy: Determines whether lymph nodes contain cancer.
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing: HIV positive people are more likely to develop anal cancer, and more likely to relapse after treatment.

Anal cancer treatment