Prognosis and survival for anal cancer

A prognosis is the doctor's best estimate of how cancer will affect someone and how it will respond to treatment. Survival is the percentage of people with a disease who are alive at some point in time after their diagnosis. Prognosis and survival depend on many factors.

The doctor will look at certain aspects of the cancer or a characteristic of the person. These are called prognostic factors.The doctor will also look at predictive factors, which influence how a cancer will respond to a certain treatment.

Prognostic and predictive factors are often discussed together. They both play a part in deciding on a prognosis and a treatment plan. Only a doctor familiar with your medical history, the type and stage and other features of the cancer, the treatments chosen and the response to treatment can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis and chances of survival.

The following are prognostic factors for anal cancer.

Size of the tumour

Anal tumours smaller than 2 cm have a better prognosis than larger tumours. Tumours larger than 5 cm tend to have a poor prognosis.

If cancer has spread to lymph nodes

Anal cancer that hasn't spread to lymph nodes has a better prognosis than cancer that has spread to lymph nodes. The number of lymph nodes that the cancer has spread to and the size of the lymph nodes does not affect prognosis.

Grade of the tumour

Low-grade anal tumours have a better prognosis than high-grade tumours.


Women have a better prognosis than men when diagnosed with anal cancer. We need more research and can't say at this time what the prognosis is for transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse people.

Type of tumour

Squamous cell carcinomas of the anus have a better prognosis than adenocarcinoma and other rare anal cancers.

Expert review and references

  • American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Anal Cancer Statistics. 2022:
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network . NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Anal Carcinoma Version 1.2022 . 2022.
  • Theophanous S, Samuel R, Lilley J, Henry A, Sebag-Montefiore D, Gilbert A, et al. Prognostic factors for patients with anal cancer treated with conformal radiotherapy–a systematic review. BMC Cancer. 2022: 22:607.
  • Wakeham K, Murray L, Muirhead R, Morgan C, Sleigh K, et al. Multicentre investigation of prognostic factors incorporating p16 and tumour infiltrating lymphocytes for anal cancer after chemoradiotherapy. Clinical Oncology. 2021: 33(10):638-649.

Survival statistics for anal cancer

Survival statistics for anal cancer are very general estimates. Survival is different for each stage.

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

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