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Can I Get Checked for Anal Cancer Before I Have Symptoms?

The American Cancer Society suggests that people over the age of 50 have a digital rectal exam (DRE) every year.

Screening tests check for diseases in people who don’t have symptoms. There are recommended screening tests to check for anal cancer. For anal cancer, your doctor can check for early signs of cancer during your regular physical exams. It’s easier to treat anal cancer if it is found early. That’s what screening does.

One type of test is the digital rectal exam (DRE). During a DRE, the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum. The doctor feels for hard or lumpy areas. This is not only to check for anal cancer, but also to check for prostate cancer in men and rectal cancer in both men and women.

Be sure you’re screened by a doctor regularly if you’re at high risk for anal cancer. You’re at high risk if you answer yes to any of these statements:

  • I have human papillomavirus (HPV) or genital warts.

  • I have had multiple sex partners.

  • I have unprotected anal intercourse.

  • I have a weakened immune system.

  • I smoke.

  • I am between the ages of 50 and 80.

  • I have had repeated inflammation in the anal region.

Your doctor may also recommend an anal Pap test, similar to the test women have for cervical cancer in these cases:

  • Men who have sex with men

  • Women with a history of cervical cancer or vulvar cancer

  • Men or women who are HIV positive

  • All transplant patients

If abnormal cells are seen under a microscope, your doctor will refer you for a biopsy. 


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