Anal Cancer Survivorship

About Anal Cancer

At Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center, patients with anal cancer receive their care from a multidisciplinary team of nationally recognized experts in the diagnosis, treatment and research of gastrointestinal cancer.

The anus is at the end of the digestive tract below the rectum. The anal canal is a three- to four-centimeter long structure between the anal sphincter, a muscle that controls bowel continence, and the anal margin, the area of skin just outside of the digestive tract. The anus is the opening of the rectum to the outside of the body.

There are two types of anal cancer:

  • Anal margin: Visible on the skin outside of the anus
  • Anal canal: Cannot be seen on the outside of the anus

Anal cancer is not very common and accounts for only 1 to 2 percent of all gastrointestinal cancers.

Penn Medicine's multidisciplinary approach to cancer diagnosis and treatment provides better outcomes and gives patients access to the most advanced treatment, surgical techniques and clinical trials. This multidisciplinary approach has a dual goal of anal conservation and cure of disease.

Because navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right physician.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more About Anal Cancer

Diagnosing Anal Cancer

An accurate cancer diagnosis from trusted cancer specialists is the first step in getting personalized treatment options to treat anal cancer.

Patients who choose Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, benefit from a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists including medical oncologists, gastroenterologists, radiologists, pathologists and surgeons who work together to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan designed specifically for each patient with anal cancer.

Cancer specialists at Penn Medicine are highly experienced in using the most advanced techniques for diagnosing anal cancer.

Navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult. Patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse who can help them make an appointment with the right person. Penn Medicine’s contact center has experienced cancer nurses available and ready to guide patients in finding the cancer specialist right for them.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more Diagnosing Anal Cancer

Anal Cancer Treatment

Following the diagnosis and staging of anal cancer, cancer specialists at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center develop a personalized treatment plan.

Anal margin cancer, otherwise known as “perianal cancer” is treated with surgery to remove the growth.

Anal canal cancer is usually treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.  Surgery is rarely needed in cases of anal canal cancer. 

In all cases of anal cancer, Penn cancer specialists are committed to doing everything they can to conserve the anus and anal tissue.

Penn’s treatment options for anal margin cancer include:

  • Surgery
    • Local resection

Penn’s treatment options for anal canal cancer include:

  • Radiation therapy
    • 3-D conformal radiation
    • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
    • Volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT)
    • Proton therapy
  • Chemotherapy and biologic therapies
  • Surgery
    • Local resection

Other possible treatment options for anal margin and canal cancer include:

  • Clinical trials
  • Other treatments
    • Integrative medicine and wellness
    • Palliative care
    • Penn Home Care and Hospice

Because navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right physician.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more Anal Cancer Treatment

Anal Cancer Survivorship

Survivorship programs at Penn Medicine are a distinct phase of anal cancer care and are designed to help patients transition from their cancer treatment routine to a post-cancer care lifestyle. There are more than 12 million cancer survivors living and thriving today as a result of advances in cancer treatment. However, cancer treatments can result in physical, emotional and financial complications long after the therapy is complete.


Personalized Survivorship Care

Anal cancer has the highest rate of recurrence in the first one to two years after completing cancer treatment. It is important for patients to schedule follow-up visits with their physician as soon as their cancer treatment is completed.

At the end of treatment, anal cancer patients should schedule a survivorship visit with their oncologist and nurse practitioner. At this time, patients are provided with a summary of the treatment received as well as a plan for follow-up care.

Patients who have completed treatment for anal cancer can expect follow-up visits with their physician every three to four months for the first two years. A check of the anal area at the time of the office visit is routine.

Penn cancer providers work one-on-one with patients to develop survivorship care plans. Since every cancer is unique, the plans are tailored to the patients. 

The survivorship care plan includes information on:

  • Potential long-term or late side effects of cancer treatment, the symptoms and treatment.
  • Recommendations for cancer screening for disease recurrence or a new cancer.
  • Psychosocial effects, including relationships and sexuality.
  • Planning follow-up visits.

A survivorship care plan encourages patients to review the information with their health care team and become active participants in their follow-up care.

Penn also offers anal cancer patients a number of support programs and groups to enhance their survivorship care plans.

Survivorship Programs at Penn Medicine

Penn Medicine’s Living Well After Cancer™ Program is a nationally recognized program that focuses on issues facing cancer survivors. The Abramson Cancer Center is a member of the LIVESTRONG™ Survivorship Center of Excellence Network. The program focuses on survivorship, a distinct phase of care.

Prescription for Living: The Cancer Survivorship Program at the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital provides patients with a summary of important information about specific cancer diagnoses and treatments, as well as follow-up information and steps to take towards recovery, supportive care and education to help patients adjust to their lives as cancer survivors.

Continued Support

Penn offers cancer patients support programs and groups to enhance their survivorship care plans.

The Abramson Cancer Center hosts a wide range of materials and activities that provide education and support to address key areas of concern including survivorship for cancer patients and their loved ones.

Focus On: Gastrointestinal Cancers is a day-long conference that addresses issues for patients with anal cancer, as well as their loved ones.


Todd Sheridan

Todd Sheridan's family members have always supported his love of hockey and were his biggest fan when his team won the Junior A National Championship. They again showed their deep devotion by bringing him to Penn for the best possible cancer care. T

Stand Up to Cancer

Peter O'Dwyer, MD, professor of Hematology-Oncology and program director of Development Therapeutics in the Abramson Cancer Center, was interviewed on NBC10's 10! Show about Penn's work as part of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team... Read more

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are studies to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. The purpose of each clinical trial is to answer a specific question. Our physicians carefully design these studies to find new ways to improve care and quality of life ... more about clinical trials