The lymphatic system

The lymphatic system helps to protect us from infection and disease. It also drains lymph fluid from the tissues of the body before returning it to the blood. The lymphatic system is made up of fine tubes called lymphatic vessels that connect to groups of lymph nodes throughout the body.

Lymph nodes (sometimes called lymph glands) are small and bean-shaped. They filter bacteria (germs) and disease from the lymph fluid. When you have an infection, lymph nodes often swell as they fight the infection. Sometimes cancer can spread through the lymphatic system to nearby lymph nodes. You may have tests on the lymph nodes to look for cancer cells.

The lymph nodes close to the bowel
The lymph nodes close to the bowel

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If anal cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, it is most likely to go to the nodes close to the rectum and in the groin.

Back to Understanding anal cancer

What is cancer?

There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.

The anus

The anus is the opening at the end of the large bowel. Stools pass through the anus when leaving the body.

Types of anal cancer

There are different types of anal cancer. The most common type of anal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma.