How is Anal Cancer Diagnosed?

There are cases of anal cancer where people that are at a high risk of the disease are diagnosed through screening tests.  There are other times that a doctor may find cancer during a routine checkup or when a minor procedure is performed. Typically, when cancer is identified this way, it is effective because the tumors are identified early on.  Anal cancer is typically diagnosed, however, because an individual is having symptoms consistent with the disease. When an individual is suspected of having anal cancer, there are exams and tests that are performed to confirm the diagnosis.  When cancer is identified, then more tests are conducted so that the stage of cancer can be identified. Here are some of the exams used to identify anal cancer.


When you are experiencing symptoms that coincide with anal cancer, a doctor will typically inquire about your medical history.   This is done to determine what risk factors you have. Further, your doctor is going to conduct an examination. This examination is done with the purpose identifying physical signs that anal cancer exists.  This typically includes a rectal exam. When the results are abnormal, the doctor may decide further testing is needed to identify the exact issue. This means that you may be referred to a specialist that specializes in diseases of the anus, colon, or rectum to have more tests conducted and to set up treatment options.  



Another examination you may be required to undergo is known as an endoscopy.  These exams are when a tub containing a small lens on the end of it is used to examine the inside of the body.  There are different types of endoscopy that can be utilized to find what is causing your symptoms. These tubes can even be used to get a biopsy from the anal canal.  When you have an endoscopy done, you are typically lying on a table on your side with your knees to your chest or bent over a table.



Anoscopy is like an endoscopy.  With these exams, a short hollow tube is used.  The tube is about three to four inches in length and around one inch around.  There are times that it will have a light on the end of it. The tube is lubricated and entered the anus and rectum.  When the light is shined into the tube, it provides the doctor of a clear view of the anus and the lining of the lower part of the rectum.  This exam isn’t exceptionally painful overall.


Another exam that you may have completed is the rigid Proctosigmoidoscopy.  The tube is like the one used for an Anoscopy. The main difference is that the tube is longer to allow the doctor to see both the rectum and the lower portion of your sigmoid colon.  You may find that you need to take laxatives or even have an enema before the test is completed so that you know that your bowels are empty.


There are times that the procedures will reveal suspicious growth.  When that happens, your doctor will need to take some of the tissue to sample it and find out whether it is cancer.  This is known as a biopsy. When the growth occurs inside the anal canal, the doctor can typically pull this sample using the scope during the examination.  There are times that anesthetic is given to numb the area before a biopsy is taken. Once this is completed, the doctor cuts a small amount of tissue and sends it to the lab for testing.  If the tumor is small, there are times that the doctor will remove the entire thing and send it to the lab for testing. There are different types of biopsy’s that can be completed, and you may want to ask your doctor about the procedure that is being conducted.

Other tests


There are other tests that you may also have to undergo for anal cancer to be properly diagnosed.  You may undergo Imaging tests that could help identify cancer, an ultrasound, a CT scan, an MRI, a chest X-ray, or a PET scan.  The type of testing that will be done depends on the symptoms you are experiencing, what the doctor finds, and what you and the doctor decide should be done.  



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