Chemotherapy drugs can make cancer cells more sensitive to radiotherapy. This can help the radiotherapy to work better. Having both treatments often works better than having either treatment on its own.
You usually have chemoradiation as an outpatient.
In the first week of treatment, you start chemotherapy and have your first radiotherapy treatment.
You have radiotherapy Monday to Friday, for 4 to 6 weeks.
4 weeks after you started treatment, you have a second cycle of chemotherapy.
You usually have the chemotherapy into a vein (intravenously). You may have fluorouracil through a portable chemotherapy pump, which you take home. Or you may have a drug called capecitabine instead of fluorouracil, which you take as a tablet.
We have more information about how how chemotherapy is given.
Having chemotherapy and radiotherapy together can make the side effects of treatment worse. Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will give you more information about chemoradiation and the possible side effects. You may have the following side effects:
Tell your doctor, specialist nurse or radiographer about your side effects. They can help you find ways to cope with them.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our anal cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
R Glynne-Jones, PJ Nilson, C Aschele et al. ESMO-ESSO-ESTRO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up for anal cancer. July 2014. European Society of Medical Oncology. Available from www.esmo.org/Guidelines/Gastrointestinal-Cancers/Anal-Cancer (accessed October 2019).
Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain & Ireland (ACPGBI). Volume 19. Issue S1. Guidelines for the management of cancer of the colon, rectum and anus. 2017. Available from: www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/14631318/19/S1 (accessed October 2019).
R Muirhead, RA Adams, DC Gilbert et al. National guidance for IMRT in anal cancer. December 2016 (accessed October 2019).
D Ryan, C Willett et al. Clinical features, staging, and treatment of anal cancer. Uptodate 2019. Available at www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-features-staging-and-treatment-of-anal-cancer (accessed October 2019).
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.