Anal cancer

Having tests

Anal cancer

Having tests

Not all symptoms are caused by cancer. Your GP or specialist will send you for tests to check what is causing your symptoms.

Your doctors should explain why you are having the tests and what they involve.

What you need to know

Reasons for tests

Your GP will examine you and send you for tests before you see a specialist. These initial tests are to see if your symptoms are caused by cancer or by something else.

If you do have a cancer, the specialist you see will probably send you for tests to find out more about it. This includes finding out the type of cells the cancer started in and whether it has spread.

Tests for anal cancer

The GP may order blood tests and do a physical examination including a digital rectal examination (DRE).

If there is anything suspicious the GP will refer you to a specialist. They will do further tests to find out what is causing the symptoms. Tests may include:

  • anoscopy 
  • proctoscopy 
  • examination under general anaesthetic, especially if the patient is in pain and finds examination too uncomfortable while they are awake.

If anal cancer is found, your specialist may order medical imaging tests to see if the cancer has spread. These may include:

  • chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • PET scan.

The tests may be done at a private imaging centre or a hospital radiology department. There may be costs involved, so ask if there are any ‘out-of-pocket expenses’.

Biopsies for anal cancer

One test that is done for most cancers is a biopsy. This is when small pieces of tissue are taken from the lump or area that may be the site of cancer. A pathologist looks at the tissue under a microscope and performs some additional tests to see if it is a cancer.

Biopsies for anal cancer are most often taken during anoscopy or proctoscopy, but some people may also have a biopsy of lymph nodes in the groin.

What to ask or talk about

Preparing for tests

Going for tests can make some people nervous, but knowing what to expect can help.

Your GP or specialist should tell you why you need each test and what it involves. Use our checklists to help you know what to ask.

Sometimes you need to contact the place where you are having the test for more information. This can include how to prepare for the test, how much it will cost and what you will get back from Medicare and your private health fund.

Ask how long it will take before you hear the results of the test.

Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Next steps

Getting test results

It is normal to feel anxious when you are waiting for test results. 

Your GP or specialist should tell you when the results will be ready and how you will find out about them. Usually you need to make an appointment to get the results.

It is a good idea to take someone with you when you go for this appointment.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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