Skip to Content

Anal Cancer Prevention and Screening

Anal Cancer Screening

Cancer screening exams are important medical tests done when you’re healthy and don’t have symptoms. They help find cancer at its earliest stage, when the chances for treating it are best.

The chances for successful treatment are much higher when anal cancer is found early. While anal cancer often does not have symptoms, a digital rectal exam (DRE) can diagnose some cases early.

Men over 50 years old should have annual rectal exams. Once they are sexually active, women should have annual pelvic exams that include rectal exams.

If you have risk factors for anal cancer, talk to your doctor about other tests, including an anal Pap test. In this test, much like the Pap test for cervical cancer, cells from the anus are removed and looked at under a microscope.

If you have been diagnosed with anal cancer, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Anal Cancer Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting anal cancer is a risk factor. These include:

  • Age: Squamous cell carcinoma of the anus most often is found in people older than 50
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • Having more than 10 sexual partners
  • Anal intercourse
  • Frequent anal redness, swelling and soreness
  • Tobacco use: Read more about MD Anderson’s smoking cessation clinical trials
  • Immunosuppression, including taking immune-suppressing drugs after an organ transplant

Not everyone with risk factors gets anal cancer. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor.

Anal Cancer Prevention

Certain lifestyle choices can help prevent anal cancer. One of the most important is to avoid HPV infection. Some ways you can lower your chances of getting HPV include:

  • Wait until you are older to have sex and limit your number of sexual partners
  • Use condoms during sex
  • Don’t smoke or use other types of tobacco. Read more about MD Anderson’s smoking cessation clinical trials.
  • Avoid sex with people with sexually transmitted diseases (STD) or who have had multiple sexual partners
  • Get an HPV vaccine. Gardasil® and Cervarix® help protect against certain types of HPV. But if you have HPV, they do not cure it.
  • Read more about MD Anderson’s HPV test recommendations.

Research shows that many cancers can be prevented.Visit the Prevention section of our website to find out steps you can take to avoid cancer.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Advanced anal cancer treatments including sphincter-preserving and minimally invasive surgery, intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and leading-edge chemotherapy and targeted therapies
  • Novel chemotherapy and targeted therapies for anal cancer
  • Special expertise in complex types of anal cancer, including in people with HIV or AIDS
  • Higher level of experience in anal cancer than most other cancer centers
  • Clinical trials of new anal cancer treatments

Anal Cancer Knowledge Center

Treatment at MD Anderson

Anal cancer is treated in our:

Find Your MD Anderson Location



© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center