Actress Farrah Fawcett, 62, was diagnosed with anal cancer almost three years ago in September 2006. She died today at a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., of anal cancer.
Former “Charlie’s Angel” Fawcett declared herself cancer-free four months after her initial diagnosis. The cancer was reported to return in May 2007. She then traveled to Germany for alternative treatment and documented her experiences.
Anal cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the anus. The anus is formed partly from the outer skin layers and partly from the intestine. The anal canal, the part of the anus between the rectum and the anal opening, is about 1½ inches long. Anal cancer is mainly a local-regional cancer. About 5,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with anal cancer each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. It metastasizes (spreads to other body tissue) in approximately 15% of patients.
Individuals with anal cancer may present with symptoms of bleeding from the anus, pain or pressure in the area, itching or discharge from the anus, or a lump near the anus.
Risk factors of Anal Cancer include:
- Gender - Women have a higher risk than men.
- Age - Most cases occur in individuals aged 50 years and older.
- Multiple sexual partners or history of anal sex
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) - a sexually transmitted virus that can cause genital warts and increases the risk of anal and cervical (bottom of the womb) cancers.
- Drugs or conditions that suppress the immune system - Long-term use of corticosteroid drugs and the presence of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) have both been linked to an increased risk of anal cancer.
- Anal fistulas - presence of abnormal openings along the anal canal.
- Tobacco use
The prognosis (chance of recovery) of anal cancer depends on the size, location, and spread of the tumor. Treatment options depend on the location of the tumor and the stage of the cancer. Prior to the 1970s, treatment focused on surgical removal of the tumor, but the main treatments now are chemoradiation therapies (anti-cancer drugs combined with radiation), with surgery reserved for patients who have residual disease after such treatment.
Farrah Fawcett and Anal Cancer
National Institute of Health