Anal cancer treatment

The treatment you have for anal cancer depends on the stage of the cancer and your general health. Your test results will help your doctor plan your treatment.

About treatment for anal cancer

The treatment you have for anal cancer depends on the stage of the cancer and your general health. Your test results will help your doctor plan your treatment.

It is important to talk about your treatment options with your doctor. They can explain why they are suggesting a certain treatment plan and how the treatment may affect you. Your doctor and nurse can tell you about possible side effects and what can be done to manage them.

We understand that having treatment can be a difficult time for people. We're here to support you. If you want to talk, you can:


The main treatment for anal cancer is a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. This is called chemoradiation. Chemoradiation is usually successful and most people do not need surgery.


You may have chemotherapy on its own if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. It may help to control the cancer and improve symptoms.


You may have radiotherapy on its own if you are not well enough to have chemoradiation.

Radiotherapy can also be used to help with symptoms if the cancer has spread.


You may have surgery for anal cancer:

  • after chemoradiation, if the chemoradiation does not get rid of all the cancer
  • if the cancer comes back after chemoradiation
  • to remove an early-stage anal cancer – but this will depend on the size of the tumour and where it is in the anus
  • if you cannot have radiotherapy – this may be because you have had radiotherapy to the pelvis before
  • before starting chemoradiation, to help with any symptoms.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 30 April 2020
Next review: 30 April 2023

This content is currently being reviewed. New information will be coming soon.

Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.