Diagnosis & Tests

for Anal Cancer

When diagnosed with anal cancer further tests are necessary to determine the extent of spread (stage) of the cancer. Cancer’s stage is a key factor in determining the best treatment.

In addition to a physical examination, the following tests may be used to diagnose and stage anal cancer:

Digital Rectal Examination (DRE): During a DRE the doctor inserts a gloved finger into the anus to feel for lumps or other abnormalities.

Anoscopy: If the doctor feels a suspicious area during a DRE, an anoscopy may be performed to take a closer look at the area. An anoscopy allows the doctor to see inside the body with a thin, lighted, flexible tube called an anoscope. An individual is typically sedated as the tube is inserted into the anus and/or rectum.

Biopsy: A biopsy is the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope. A definite diagnosis of cancer can only be confirmed with a biopsy to look for cancer cells in the sample. The type of biopsy performed will depend on the location of the suspected cancer.

Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of the internal organs. In an anal ultrasound, an ultrasound wand is inserted into the anus to get the pictures.

X-ray: An x-ray is way to create a picture of the structures inside of the body using a small amount of radiation.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: A CT scan is a technique for imaging body tissues and organs, during which X-ray transmissions are converted to detailed images, using a computer to synthesize X-ray data. A CT scan is conducted with a large machine positioned outside the body that can rotate to capture detailed images of the organs and tissues inside the body.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI uses a magnetic field rather than X-rays, and can often distinguish more accurately between healthy and diseased tissue than a CT. An MRI gives a better picture of cancer located near bone than does CT, does not use radiation, and provides pictures from various angles that enable doctors to construct a three-dimensional image of the cancer.

Positron emission tomography (PET): Positron emission tomography scanning is an advanced technique for imaging body tissues and organs. One characteristic of living tissue is the metabolism of sugar. Prior to a PET scan, a substance containing a type of sugar attached to a radioactive isotope (a molecule that emits radiation) is injected into the patient’s vein. The cancer cells “take up” the sugar and attached isotope, which emits positively charged, low energy radiation (positrons) that create the production of gamma rays that can be detected by the PET machine to produce a picture. If no gamma rays are detected in the scanned area, it is unlikely that the mass in question contains living cancer cells.

Bone Scan: A bone scan is used to determine whether cancer has spread to the bones. Prior to a bone scan a small amount of radioactive substance is injected into a vein. This substance travels through the bloodstream and collects in areas of abnormal bone growth. An instrument called a scanner measures the radioactivity levels in these areas and records them on x-ray film.

Genomic or Biomarker Testing-Precision Cancer Medicine

The purpose of precision cancer medicine is to define the genomic alterations in the cancers DNA that are driving that specific cancer. Precision cancer medicine utilizes molecular diagnostic & genomic testing, including DNA sequencing, to identify cancer-driving abnormalities in a cancer’s genome. Once a genetic abnormality is identified, a specific targeted therapy can be designed to attack a specific mutation or other cancer-related change in the DNA programming of the cancer cells. Precision cancer medicine uses targeted drugs and immunotherapies engineered to directly attack the cancer cells with specific abnormalities, leaving normal cells largely unharmed.

By testing a cancer for specific unique biomarkers doctors can offer the most personalized treatment approach utilizing precision medicines.

Learn more here: http://oncoprecision.org/


American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2016.

National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet. Human Papillomaviruses and Cancer: Questions and Answers.