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How is anal cancer diagnosed?

The main tests for diagnosing anal cancer are a physical examination and an endoscopy with biopsy.

Physical examination – The doctor inserts a gloved finger into your anus to feel for any lumps or swelling. This is called a digital anorectal examination (DARE).

Endoscopy with biopsy – The doctor inserts a narrow instrument called a sigmoidoscope or colonoscope into your anus to see the lining of the anal canal. This may be done under a 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 a PET–CT scan.

For more information about the tests used to diagnose anal cancer, call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

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Understanding Anal Cancer

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed July 2020 by the following expert content reviewers: 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.