26 June 2009

Farrah Fawcett loses cancer battle

Actress Farrah Fawcett, has died after a long battle with anal cancer. She was 62.

Actress Farrah Fawcett, best known for her role in television series "Charlie's Angels," died Thursday after a long battle with cancer, her long-time companion Ryan O'Neal said. She was 62.

"After a long and brave battle with cancer, our beloved Farrah has passed away," O'Neal said in a statement released by Fawcett's publicist Arnold Robinson. "Although this is an extremely difficult time for her family and friends, we take comfort in the beautiful times that we shared with Farrah over the years and the knowledge that her life brought joy to so many people around the world."

In recent years Fawcett's health was the subject of intense scrutiny by a voracious tabloid media. News of her cancer fight broke in October 2006, sparking an outpouring of support from fans and well-wishers.

In 2007 she declared that months of gruelling chemotherapy had seen her beat the cancer despite "excruciating pain and uncertainty." "It never occurred to me to stop fighting – not ever," she said.

However, in April this year it emerged that the cancer had returned and the actress was gravely ill.

Anal cancer
In anal cancer, malignant (i.e. cancer cells that can spread) form in the tissues of the anus, the end of the large intestine through which solid waste leaves the body. The cancer starts in the inner lining of the anus. From there it can spread to nearby organs, such as the vagina, urethra or bladder. The malignant cells can also enter the lymphatic system, and be carried to more distant organs where they may develop tumours.

What causes anal cancer?
The exact causes of anal cancer are still not well understood, but there are certain risk factors that increase the risk.

The likelihood you will develop this kind of cancer increases if you:

  • Are over 50
  • Are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Have had many sexual partners.
  • Have had receptive anal sex
  • Experience frequent anal redness, swelling and soreness.
  • Have anal fistulas (abnormal openings around the anus)
  • Smoke

Symptoms of anal cancer
The following may be symptoms of anal cancer (as well as several other conditions). See your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • Bleeding from the anus.
  • Pain or pressure in the area around the anus.
  • Itching or discharge from the anus.
  • A lump near the anus.
  • A change in bowel habits.

(- Sapa and Health24, June 2009)

Adapted from General Information about anal cancer, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. 2009.


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