Farrah Fawcett Lost In Fight With Anal Cancer
At the age of 62, former sexy “Charlie’s Angels” Farrah Fawcett died on June 25, 2009, the same day that Michael Jackson died, after she was diagnosed with anal cancer three years ago, leaving partner Ryan O’Neal and their 24 year old son Redmond.
Fawcett became an icon in the 1970’s for her swimsuit posters. On-screen, among her notable works include The Cannonball Run, The Burning Bed, Small Sacrifices, Extremities, and The Apostle.
In 2006 when she was first diagnosed with anal cancer, Fawcett started her battle and got into radiation and chemotherapy, but in May 2007 not long after her treatment, scans revealed that her cancer was back and has progressed to stage IV cancer and has started spreading to her liver as well.
This angel is not the one to bow down easily and bravely underwent series of cancer treatments and procedure in Germany for six times which included chemotherapy, surgery to remove the original anal cancer, and laser treatments of the tumors in her liver.
Early 2008, though doctors stressed that she wasn’t cancer free, Fawcett was filled with optimism when scans showed that her tumors were no longer active and each of the known sites of tumor in her liver had all been treated.
Sadly, the cancer made big comeback in the spring of 2008 when test results revealed new tumors in Fawcett’s liver and they found a re-growth of her original anal tumor.
Fawcett opted for alternative treatments in the US when she entered clinical trial of an experimental drug in summer of 2008, which unfortunately was not successful, revealing that her tumor was progressing. Simultaneously she switched to other chemotherapy drugs, which to her dismay made her hair fall out – something Fawcett has been trying to prevent from her early cancer treatment.
April 2009 this year, after her sixth trip to Germany for more intensive treatments and surgical procedures, Fawcett was admitted to the hospital for blood clotting.
The Villain: Anal Cancer
The anus is the opening at the end of the rectum through which body waste passes. Anal cancer is an uncommon cancer whereas cancer cells develop in the anus.
Anal Cancers are highly treatable when diagnosed in the early stages before the malignancy has spread beyond the primary site, with 82% of five-year survival. The five-year survival then drops to 60% if diagnosed by the time it has spread to surrounding lymph nodes. And about 20% of patients live over five years when it has started to spread to distant organs.
The overall five-year survival rate diagnosis of anal cancer is 60% for men, while women have higher probability of 71%.
Targeted Victims of Anal Cancer
Those in the ages between 50 and 80 years old are common to be diagnosed with anal cancer. Men in their 50s are more likely to have anal cancer, but after age 50 it is slightly more common in women.
Some tumors that develop in the anus are benign, but eventually develop into cancer over time. There are several risk factors associated to anal cancer:
- People over 50 years old
- Having several sexual partners
- Having open anal intercourse
- Having a weakened immune system
- Frequent anal redness and soreness
There are claims that a particular vaccine may prevent anal cancers; however this has not been proven yet.
Signs of Anal Cancer
There are no symptoms associated with some cases of anal cancer. Though, about half of the patient’s first sign of the disease is anal itching and bleeding.
Anal cancer is very uncommon unlike other known cancers, so instead of trying to justify your healthy lifestyle and acting as the “know it already” brat, immediately address those symptoms and have it checked by professional doctors. Fear of the unknown is scarier when you realize the truth a little too late for you to do something about it.
Additional signs of anal cancer:
- Pain or pressure in the anal area
- Unusual discharges from the anus
- Lump near the anus
- Change in bowel habits
Detecting Anal Cancer
There are several ways to diagnose anal cancer including a routine digital rectal exam or during a minor procedure to remove suspected hemorrhoids. Anal cancer may also be detected through more invasive procedures like anoscopy, proctoscopy or endorectal ultrasound.
Once cancer is suspected, a pathologist will examine results from the conducted biopsy exam to give final confirmation.
Defeating the Villain: Treatments for Anal Cancer
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the standard treatments and are currently the most widely used approach for anal cancer. These treatments would normally involve series of repetition before getting optimistic results.