While surgery is not typically a primary treatment for anal cancer, there are times when it is recommended. One of the surgical procedures that may be used for the treatment of anal cancer is an abdominoperineal resection.
What is an abdominoperineal resection?
An abdominoperineal resection is a surgical operation that involves removal of the:
- Anal sphincter
- Sigmoid colon
A lymph node dissection may also be performed to remove surrounding lymph nodes in the groin.
When is this procedure used?
Most often, an abdominoperineal resection is only used for anal cancer when other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, are unsuccessful. The procedure may also be used for recurring anal cancer (cancer that comes back after treatment).
What to expect
Since an abdominoperineal resection involves removing the rectum and anus, it always requires a colostomy. A colostomy involves creating a new exit point for stool and gas by redirecting the lower end of the colon to a stoma, or small hole, in the abdomen. A bag covers this opening to collect the stool. The colostomy bag adheres to the skin underneath clothing – no one would know that someone has a colostomy unless they were told.
It will take several days for the digestive system to regain normal function following surgery. Diet will progress from liquids to solid foods as digestive function returns.
Possible risks and side effects
Side effects of any surgery vary from person to person. However, as an abdominoperineal resection is a major operation, most people experience some level of pain following the procedure, which can be managed with medication. As with any major surgery, other side effects are possible. Scar tissue in the abdomen could cause pain or digestive problems. Additionally, nerves controlling sexual function and urination are located in the pelvis, so there is a small chance for sexual impact and issues with incontinence.
For more information about abdominoperineal resection and its use for anal cancer, call 1-888-663-3488. To meet with the anal cancer treatment team in Moffitt’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program, complete our new patient registration form online. Referrals are not required.