Anal Cancer: Screening

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 06/2019

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about screening for anal cancer. You will also learn the risks and benefits of screening. Use the menu to see other pages.

Screening is used to look for cancer before you have any symptoms or signs. Scientists have developed, and continue to develop, tests that can be used to screen a person for specific types of cancer. The overall goals of cancer screening are to:

  • Lower the number of people who die from the disease, or eliminate deaths from cancer altogether

  • Lower the number of people who develop the disease

Learn more about the basics of cancer screening.

Screening information for anal cancer

Cancer screening is done to find cancer as early as possible in people who don’t yet have any signs of the disease. Anal cytology is a test being developed that doctors can use for people who don’t have symptoms of anal cancer but do have a high risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), such as HPV and HIV.

The test is similar to a Pap test, which looks for cervical cancer. The doctor can swab the anal lining and look at the cells on the swab under a microscope to find early cellular changes that might lead to cancer or may diagnose cancer from this swab.

Some doctors are advocating the routine use of this test for men who have HIV and who have sex with men and for other people who are at high risk for developing anal cancer.

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what body changes or medical problems anal cancer can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.