Farrah's Cancers Puts Anal Cancer In Spotlight
Nearly nine million people watched a special documentary dedicated on how Farrah Fawcett copes with her anal cancer and to her farewell message to the American public. According to friends, Farrah cried watching that documentary. She bravely documented her three year battle with anal cancer with an home camera.
According the National Cancer Institute, there were an estimated 5,000 new cases of anal cancer in 2008. The number of new colon cancer cases was 106,100 for the same year. Dr. Peter Hausner, a University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center oncologist, explains to Baltimore Sun that "Anal cancer is a rare cancer. Many cases are linked to infection with a certain type of human papilloma virus (HPV). It can also be caused through unprotected anal intercourse, in particular with a person who has genital warts. However, not all people who have HPV will develop anal cancer."
The early symptoms of anal cancer are the feeling of a foreign body in the anus, bleeding and pain with bowel movements. Cancers causing such problems can be easily found by a rectal exam, identified by histology and treated by a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. Early detection is key. The National Cancer Institute also writes that the symptoms of anal cancer also include bleeding, pain or lumps in the anal area. Anal itching and discharge can also be signs of anal cancer. Possible treatments include radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. Your treatment of anal cancer will depend whether the tumor has spread, and on the type, size and location of the tumor.
According to JAMA's Anal Cancer preview (PDF) the disease has the following risk factors, which are based on age and gender.
• Gender - Women have a higher risk than men.
• Age - Most cases occur in individuals aged 50 years and older.
• Multiple sexual partners
• 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
According toe Farrah Fawcett's doctor Lawrence Piro, who spoke to Today Show, she, at times, is on pain medication and while not eating well as most cancer patients, she is getting nutrition. The doctors also told that all the tabloid reports that she is "down to 80 pounds and basically unresponsive, sleeping all day" are completely false.
Kate Jackson, a friend and co-star of Farrah Fawcett told in the same show that Farrah "hates" those tabloid reports and "it honestly does hurt human beings." And a human being Farrah Fawcett who is bravely fighting an anal cancer and has to read all of that, it hurts and is bad isn't it?
We do commend Farrah for her brave stand and for documenting her fight and really putting anal cancer into a national spotlight raising more awareness. Hopefully more research money and funds will go to labs and societies that are dedicated to finding treatment to anal cancer.