Fawcett waged tough battle on rare cancer

June 29, 2009 7:04:57 AM PDT
Farrah Fawcett lost her battle with anal cancer today. It was a very public three-year battle with the rare cancer.

Farrah Fawcett wasn't just recognized for her looks or her acting, she was also recognized years later for her activism against cancer.

Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer - a very rare cancer - in 2006.

It's estimated there were just a little more than 5,000 cases of anal cancer last year, compared to about 148-thousand cases of colo-rectal cancer.

G-I cancer doctor Ursina Teitelbaum explains the difference.

"So it's just a totally different site of origin, anal cancer comes from the anal canal, and has a totally different tumor type," she told us.

She says anal cancer is typically squamous cell, which is more susceptible to radiation.

Colorectal tumors are typically adnocarcinomas so treating them is more complex.

In most cases anal cancer is caught early, when patients notice symptoms.

"Some of the possible symptoms are bleeding, pain, sensation of fullness but some of those can be associated with hemmorhoids so it can be tough to know what's going on," he told.

Still, Teitlebaum says most cases of anal cancer are treatable.

Fawcett's cancer is said to have been in remission in 2007, but came back, and spread to her liver, making it more difficult to treat.

For more information on this, and other types of cancer, visit the American Cancer Society website.

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