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Joined: Jan 2012

Hi everyone,

I am new to this board and am looking for information about anal cancer treatments. My 55 year old mother has been diagnosed with anal cancer. She was actually diangosed first via a swollen inguinal lymph node which was biopsied and removed. The doctors prescribed the "watch and wait" course of treatment, and she continued to have regular CAT scans (which were all clear) for about 8 months.

About four months ago, my mother found what looked to be a hemorrhoid. She has a long history of hemorrhoids so she didn't think much of it. Eventually it became so painful that she went to the emergency room. She subsequently saw two separate doctors who dismissed it as a hemorrhoid. Finally, a surgeon suggested it might be the primary cancer site presenting itself, and an oncologist agreed. A recent CAT scan (done just last week) shows that it is indeed cancer, and it has spread into other lymph nodes on the left side of her groin.

They are suggesting 5 weeks of radiation, accompanied by mitomycin (10 mg) and 5FU (1000 mg). I believe she needs a port and picc line for the chemo drugs. Is this standard procedure?

Although we have both done much reading on the side effects of pelvic radiation, I am still concerned about this severely affecitng her quality of life. She has always had issues with an overactive bladder, and is concerned that the radiation could make this issue worse. Does anyone have any advice/suggestions about management of symptoms?

Reading this forum has been very helpul, so thank you. Any additional information you could provide about the effects of treatment, etc. I would much appreciate. I'm 25, and my father already passed away from cancer when I was 15. Needless to say this has been very stressful for our family.

mp327's picture
Posts: 4106
Joined: Jan 2010

I'm sorry to hear about your mom's diagnosis. Like many of us, her story is the same--misdiagnosed initially, only to find out later that she had cancer. The recommended treatment by her docs is correct, but I would urge you to ask why only 5 weeks of radiation. I had no lymph node involvement and my tumor was small and I received 6 weeks. I would be sure to ask about that. I would also suggest that you look at the website for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (www.nccn.org) and register so that you can print out the information on that site for anal cancer. It's very complete and will give you some good information to prompt questions for her doctors. While the treatment is pretty much standard, there are a lot of docs who are not familiar with this cancer because it is rare, so it's best to be informed if you are the patient or a caregiver. She will either get a picc line or a port, but not both. I had a port and it caused me no problems. As for side effects from the radiation, there can be many, but not everyone experiences all of them. Radiation can affect the bladder, such as in my case. At times, I have more urgency than I used to, but that's about it. Radiation can cause stiffness in the hips--a very common complaint--and bowel issues that are long-lasting. However, I think most of us have learned to deal with everything that's residual and not be affected too much. If I could give you one piece of advice to pass on to your mother it would be to drink lots of water! It's very important to stay well-hydrated.

If she takes this one day at a time, she will do fine. It won't be a fun few weeks, but she will get through it. Please come here anytime you have questions or concerns and we will do what we can to help. I wish your mom the very best!

Dog Girl
Posts: 100
Joined: Sep 2010

Sorry you are here, but hopefully you will learn things that may be helpful to your Mom
while she is preparing/receiving/post treatment. If you read the blogs you will learn a lot, but I would stress that she needs to go to her radiation treatments with a full bladder as much as possible. A full bladder will lift out of the radiation field more so than an empty bladder. The problems from treatment and the after effects run the spectrum. A few breeze through; a few have a lot of problems; and I would say that most of us had/have a few issues, but not all of them. It will probably be a rough few weeks, (including a few weeks after tx has ended), but it is a fairly short course of tx and most importantly this cancer has a high cure rate. She will need to listen to her body; rest when tired, etc... and she needs to be very open with her doctors about her pain levels, what she is experiencing, etc... Ask questions and be satisfied that she understands the answers. (It's good for the patient to take someone else along with the initial appointments that can take notes as it is a bit overwhelming. Take a list of questions to the doctors as well and check them off. Also know that there are no off limit questions on this site. We've all been there, so we know what she will be going through. I wish her and you the best.

Posts: 475
Joined: Mar 2011

Below are a list of questions I took with me when I met with my oncologist. This helped me resolve some of my "unknown" anxiety. I thought I might share the questions with you in case you might like to use them.

What type of cancer do I have?

Is this considered a type of anal cancer or rectal cancer?

Is this a common type cancer?

How much of tumor did colon rectal surgeon remove?

How much of tumor remains?

Will treatments begin after tumor removal heals?

How many radiation treatments will I need?

How much chemo will I need?

What will be frequency of treatments?

How long can I expect treatments to last?

What is prognosis of my cancer condition?

Is this a common type cancer?

What stage is my cancer?

How many cases like mine have you treated?

Will treatments be painful?

Will I have pain medication to control pain?

Should I expect hair loss?

What are next steps?

Will I need assisted transportation?

If so, do you have list of transportation providers?

Posts: 3
Joined: Jan 2012

Thank you everyone for your suggestions and well wishes. I will pass them along to my mother. Best of health to everyone!

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