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 & 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.