Anal cancer is a rare type of cancer. It generally has a good outlook (82% relative survival rate) when it’s caught in the early stages. But that outlook drops if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body.
Anal cancer is rare compared with colon cancer or rectal cancer. The
- human papillomavirus (HPV) or HIV infection
- multiple sexual partners, due to increased HIV and HPV risk
- anal warts
- cancer of the cervix, vagina, or vulva, often caused by HPV infections
- a history of smoking
- a compromised immune system
- receptive anal intercourse in both men and women (due to increased risk of HPV infections)
On average, people with anal cancer live at least 5 years about
Read on to learn more about the outlook for anal cancer and the factors that affect outlook.
We use “women” and “men” in this article to reflect the terms that have been historically used to gender people. But your gender identity may not align with how your body responds to this disease. Your doctor can better help you understand how your specific circumstances will translate into diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and outlook.
Your cancer stage at the time of your diagnosis is one of the most important factors that determine your chances of survival. Anal cancer has the best outlook when it hasn’t spread to distant parts of your body.
Doctors use several staging systems for anal cancer. The ACS breaks cancer into
|Cancer stage||Description||5-year relative survival rate|
|Localized||no spread outside the anal area||82%|
|Regional||spread to nearby lymph nodes or structures||66%|
|Distant||spread to distant areas like the liver or lungs||35%|
|Overall||all stages combined||69%|
The 5-year relative survival rate is a measure of how many people with the cancer are alive 5 years later compared with people without the cancer.
Rarer types of anal cancer include:
- Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinoma of the anal canal develops in glandular cells and tends to be more aggressive than squamous cell carcinoma. In a
2019 reviewof 1,729 cases, researchers reported a 5-year survival rate of 55%.
- Basal cell carcinoma: Basal cell carcinoma starts in the cells that produce new skin cells. Its survival rate isn’t well established due to its
rarityand the small sample sizes of available studies.
- Melanoma: Melanoma develops in skin cells that produce pigment. Melanoma of the anal canal has a very poor outlook with a 5-year survival rate of around
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumor: Gastrointestinal stromal tumors develop in special cells in the wall of your gastrointestinal tract. They’re extremely rare in the anal canal. Gastrointestinal stromal tumors in general have a 5-year relative survival rate of
Other factors that can influence the outlook of anal cancer include the following.
Anal cancer is divided into
- cancers of the anal canal develop in the passage that leads from the outer part of your anus to your rectum
- cancers of the perianal area develop on the skin that makes up the outer part of your anus
Cancer of the perianal skin tends to be diagnosed at an
Male sex and spread to lymph nodes
Overall health and younger age
People with a diagnosis of anal cancer at a younger age tend to have a better chance of survival than people who received a diagnosis at a later age. In a 2021 study, researchers found that being under the age of 60 was associated with a 3.24 times higher chance of survival in 372 people with HIV-negative localized or regional anal cancer.
Most studies in the
Access to healthcare
Many people are embarrassed to visit their doctor when they have problems with their anus or lower gastrointestinal tract. However, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you suspect you may have anal cancer since the cancer will only get worse with time.
Anal cancer is a rare type of cancer. It generally has a good outlook when it’s caught in the early stages but becomes more difficult to treat if it spreads to other parts of your body.
The stage of your cancer is one of the primary factors that determines your survival rate. Other factors like your age, overall health, and the type of cancer you have can also influence your chances of survival.