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What to Know About Surgery for Anal Cancer

Surgery is not a common treatment for anal cancer. This is because the combination of chemotherapy and radiation is very effective in treating anal cancer and has fewer side effects.

If you do need surgery, the type of surgery depends on the type and location of the tumor. Two types of surgery used to treat anal cancer:

  • Local resection. If the cancer is small and has not spread, your surgeon may do a local resection. For this, the surgeon removes the tumor along with some surrounding tissue. Usually, with this type of surgery, the sphincter is not damaged. This means that you will still be able to pass stool in the normal way.

  • Abdominoperineal resection. For this type of surgery, the surgeon removes your anus and your rectum. Without an anus, you will no longer be able to pass stool in the same way. The surgeon makes a permanent opening in your abdomen, called a colostomy. A plastic bag is attached to the colostomy to collect the stool as it passes through the opening in your abdomen.

Potential side effects of surgery

Surgery causes temporary pain in the area of the operation. You may be uncomfortable during the first few days after surgery, but you can control the pain with medicine. You may also feel tired or weak for a while. The length of time it takes to recover from an operation is different for each person. If you get a colostomy, it will need constant care and careful hygienic measures, and it may affect the quality of your life.