Anal Cancer Treatment

Virginia Mason is a leader in state-of-the-art treatment options that include treatment of pre-cancerous lesions, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. In most cases, the treatment allows patients to avoid surgery altogether. Patients at Virginia Mason may join a number of national research studies that help identify the best approaches to treatment and prevention. These studies give our patients access to cancer care not yet available to the general public. Anal cancer is a cancer of emphasis at Virginia Mason so you can expect to be offered multiple different treatment options and clinical trials.


Chemotherapy is used to destroy fast growing cancer cells to achieve a high cure rate and avoid the need for a colostomy (bag). At Virginia Mason, a combination of both intravenous and oral therapy is used to optimize outcomes. New studies have shown that there are new chemotherapy medications that are more effective and have fewer side-effects compared to what has been used in the past.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation is a key therapy for anal cancer and is given externally with advanced techniques to maximize efficacy and decrease the effects on normal healthy tissues. At Virginia Mason, an oncologic FDG PET/CT is done to accurately determine the areas that require radiation. Recent studies indicate that not all anal cancers require the same radiation dose so the treatment is customized to the cancer that is seen.


Immunotherapy is a treatment that boosts the body's immune response against cancer cells. At Virginia Mason, patients with advanced anal cancer may be eligible for drugs like Pembrolizumab and Nivolumab and ongoing studies are available to determine if additional immunotherapy medications can further improve outcomes. Also being evaluated is the role adding additional immunotherapy medications.


Surgery can involve removal or destruction of the tumor in very early stages of anal cancer, or the entire anal canal in more advanced stages. At Virginia Mason, this is done using minimally invasive techniques like laparoscopic or robotic surgery. Often, the operation is done jointly with urologists, gynecologic oncologists and plastic surgeons, depending on the extent of cancer involvement.

Prompt Access to Care

New patients often see a provider the same day they call, allowing therapy to begin as soon as possible, as early detection and treatment are key for long-term survival. Care before and after treatment is designed to rapidly restore health and get patients back to normal activity as soon as possible. Cases are reviewed at our Anal Cancer tumor board — a multi-disciplinary group of experts — ensuring the best treatment is matched with each individual patient.

Wellness and Rehabilitation

Our emphasis on cancer, pre-cancerous identification and surveillance, wellness and rehabilitation enhances quality of life for our patients. Patient education programs continue to provide support and information after treatment and into recovery.

If you have questions or would like to make an appointment with one of our specialists, please call us at (206) 341-0060.