Surgery for anal cancer
Surgery may be used to treat very early anal cancer or in a small number of other situations.
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Surgery for very small tumours
An operation called local excision can remove very small tumours located near the entrance of the anus (anal margin) if they are not too close to the muscles of the anus. The surgeon will give you a local or general anaesthetic and insert an instrument into the anus to remove the tumours. Once the wound heals, the anal canal will still work in the normal way.
For most people with anal cancer, chemoradiation is the main treatment. It is usually very effective and allows you to keep your anal canal.
A major operation called an abdominoperineal resection may be an option if you cannot have chemoradiation because you have previously had radiation therapy to the pelvic region. This operation may also be used if anal cancer comes back after chemoradiation.
In an abdominoperineal resection, the anus, rectum and part of the colon (large bowel) are removed. The surgeon uses the remaining colon to create a permanent stoma, an opening in the abdomen that allows faeces to leave the body. A stoma bag is worn on the outside of the body to collect the faeces.
For more on this, see Stomas.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Dr Chip Farmer, Colorectal Surgeon, The Alfred, The Avenue and Cabrini Hospitals, VIC; Tara Faure, Lower GI Nurse Consultant, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Debra Furniss, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Max Niggl, Consumer; Julie O’Rourke, CNC Radiation Oncology, Cancer Rapid Assessment Unit, Cancer and Ambulatory Support, Canberra Health Services ACT; Dr Satish Warrier, Colorectal Surgeon, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC.
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