General Information About Anal Cancer

Anal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the anus.

The anus is the end of the large intestine, below the rectum, through which stool (solid waste) leaves the body. The anus is formed partly from the outer, skin layers of the body and partly from the intestine. Two ring-like muscles, called sphincter muscles, open and close the anal opening to let stool pass out of the body. The anal canal, the part of the anus between the rectum and the anal opening, is about 1½ inches long.


Anatomy of the lower digestive system, showing the colon and other organs.
The skin around the outside of the anus is called the perianal area. Tumors in this area are skin tumors, not analcancer.

Being infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) can affect the risk of developing anal cancer.

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Stages of Anal cancer

  • Stage 0
    Anal cancer is very early cancer. The cancer is found only in the top layer of anal tissue.
  • Stage I
    The cancer has spread beyond the top layer of anal tissue, is smaller than 2 centimeters in diameter. It has not spread to the muscle tissue of the sphincter.
  • Stage II
    Cancer has spread beyond the top layer of anal tissue and is larger than 2 centimeters in diameter, but has not spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes (small, bean-shaped structures found throughout the body that produce and store infection-fighting cells).
  • Stage IIIA
    Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes around the rectum or to nearby organs such as the vagina or bladder.
  • Stage IIIB
    Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the middle of the abdomen or in the groin, or the cancer has spread to both nearby organs and the lymph nodes around the rectum.
  • Stage IV
    Cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes within the abdomen or to organs in other parts of the body.
  • Recurrent
    Recurrent disease means that the cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been treated. It may come back in the anus or in another part of the body.

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