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Anal Cancer: Tests After Diagnosis

What tests might I have after being diagnosed?

After a diagnosis of anal cancer, you’ll likely have other tests. These tests help your healthcare providers learn more about your cancer. They can help show if the cancer has grown into nearby areas or spread to other parts of your body. The test results help your healthcare providers decide the best ways to treat your cancer. If you have any questions about these or other tests, talk with your healthcare team.

The tests you may have can include:

  • Transrectal ultrasound

  • Pelvic computed tomography CT scan

  • Pelvic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

  • Chest X-ray or chest CT scan

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan

Imaging tests

Transrectal ultrasound

This test can help healthcare providers find out if the cancer has spread around the anal area or to lymph glands in your pelvis.It can also see how big the tumor is and how deep the cancer has grown into the wall of the anus. Ultrasound uses sound waves to look inside your body. The waves are emitted from a probe inserted into your rectum. The sound waves bounce off body parts and send back signals, like sonar on a submarine. A computer then receives the signals and creates an image of the inside of your body. This test is rarely used for anal cancer. 

Pelvic CT scan

This test can help tell if the anal cancer has spread into your liver or other organs. A CT scanner takes many X-rays as you slide through it on a table. A computer combines these images to create detailed pictures.A CT scan is sometimes used to help guide the needle when doing a biopsy. This involves taking out a small piece of tissue to check for cancer cells. You may need to drink a special X-ray dye, or contrast medium, just before the scan. Or the dye may be injected into a vein through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm or hand. The dye helps images show up more clearly on the X-rays. The dye may cause a warm feeling in your face or chest. Tell the healthcare provider if you’re allergic to or have had a reaction to the dye.

Pelvic MRI

MRIs can show more detail than other X-rays. They can also help your healthcare provider figure out the location, size, and stage (extent) of the cancer. They can also tell if it’s spread to nearby tissues. MRIs use radio waves and magnets. The energy from the radio waves makes patterns formed by different types of tissue and diseases. This creates cross-sectional pictures that look like slices of the body.

Chest X-ray or chest CT scan

You may have one of these tests to see whether the cancer has spread to your lungs.

PET scan

The PET scan shows tissues actively using glucose. Glucose use is a sign of increased metabolic activity. It’s seen in quickly dividing cells, such as anal cancer cells. For this test, your healthcare provider injects you with a small amount of radioactive glucose. Then, you lie still on a table that is pushed into the PET scanner. It rotates around you, detecting the radioactivity. This is converted into a picture of your whole body, showing "hot spots" where a lot of radioactivity was detected. This test is often used along with a CT scan. This is called a PET/CT scan.

Working with your healthcare provider

Your healthcare provider will talk with you about which tests you'll have. Make sure to get ready for the tests as instructed. Ask questions and talk about any concerns you have.

  

Online Medical Reviewer: Gersten, Todd, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2016
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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