Most of the time, anal cancer is cured with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. If your cancer is not completely gone after these treatments, surgery remains an option to cure your disease. Surgery may be used for people whose cancer either doesn’t respond to chemoradiation or comes back (recurs) after treatment.
Anal cancer surgery for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) patients is performed by surgeons at University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC). If you need surgery, it will be done by a surgeon who is specially trained to do this operation. Your surgeon will work closely with the other members of your health care team.
When anal cancer doesn’t respond to chemoradiation or when it recurs after treatment, surgeons may perform a procedure called abdominoperineal resection. This is surgical removal of the anus, rectum, and part of the colon. Your surgeon may also remove lymph nodes during this procedure.
After abdominoperineal resection, stool cannot move out of your body along the normal pathway. Instead, you will need a colostomy. This means the surgeon creates an opening (stoma) in your abdomen and attaches the open end of your colon to it on the inside. A bag is attached to the skin on the outside to collect waste. While this is clearly a change from what patients were used to before having cancer, you can lead a full, satisfying life with a colostomy.
The exact procedure you have will depend on many factors. You and your team will discuss your options and decide together what is best for you.