Anal cancer tests

Confirming a diagnosis of anal cancer usually involves a number of tests. Some tests allow your doctor to see the tissue in your anus and surrounding areas more clearly. Other diagnostic tests for anal cancer tell the doctor about your general health and whether the cancer has spread. You probably won’t need to have all the tests described here.

Waiting for the test results can be a stressful time. It may help to talk to a friend or family member, or a health professional. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20


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Main tests for anal cancer

The main tests for diagnosing anal cancer are:

  • Physical examination – Your doctor inserts a gloved finger into your anus to feel for any lumps or swelling. This is called a digital anorectal examination (DARE).
  • Proctoscopy with biopsy – The doctor inserts a small, rigid instrument called a proctoscope into your anus to see the lining of the anal canal. This may be done under a local or general anaesthetic so that a tissue sample (biopsy) can be taken. The biopsy will be sent to a laboratory for testing.

If anal cancer is found, you may need one or more imaging scans to check if it has spread. These scans may include an MRI, an endorectal ultrasound, a CT scan or an FDG-PET/CT scan. To find out about these tests, call Cancer Council 13 11 20.


This information was last reviewed in June 2018
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