Farrah’s Death Raises Anal Cancer Awareness

farrah Farrah’s Death Raises Anal Cancer AwarenessIt’s often hard to make sense of death, especially when the death follows a long battle with a rare illness. Although cancer in so many forms has permeated our society, anal cancer remains quite rare. According to the American Cancer Society, slightly over 5,000 cases are diagnosed each year, with 700 people dying from the disease. On June 25, 2009, 70s icon and former Charlie’s Angel star Farrah Fawcett was one of its victims.

Because of the body part it afflicts, and also because of the stigma attached to it, anal cancer is rarely publicized and often diagnosed too late. In Farrah Fawcett’s case, it was diagnosed and treated in 2006, but then returned this April and spread. On June 25, 2009, the beauty icon passed away from the cancer, which it is reported had spread to her liver.

“Farrah’s Story”
Although the disease, as cancer goes, is quite rare, it is also frequently ignored. Let’s face it: exams used to detect this type of cancer are uncomfortable, at best. The same goes for discussing the topic.

Farrah Fawcett’s documentary, “Farrah’s Story,” which aired on NBC in late May, shed light on the disease and on Farrah’s struggle. During the latter part of her life, Farrah brought several facts about anal cancer into the public eye.

1. If diagnosed early, patients have an 80 to 90 % remission rate.
2. If the cancer is localized and detected in its first stage, the 5-year survival is approximately 82%.
3. According to the American Cancer Society, up to 85 % of all anal cancers are caused by the HPV (human papillomavirus) infection, but it is not a sexually transmitted disease per se.
4. Since up to 25 % of all women have, at some point, contracted the HPV virus, while sexual promiscuity increases the risk of anal cancer, it is not the only risk factor.

Risk Factors
In addition to the HPV virus, risk factors for anal cancer include:

-         being over the age of 50
-         a weakened immune system
-         smoking
-         family history

It’s important to stress that anal cancer is not necessarily an indicator of sexual promiscuity – having many sexual partners is just one of many risk factors. Because small tears in the anus can lead to easier transmission of the HPV virus, practicing safe anal sex can decrease the odds of contracting the disease. The use of condoms can protect against HPV transmission, but may not entirely prevent it.

Symptoms of Anal Cancer

Symptoms of anal cancer include anal bleeding, itching and soreness. Other symptoms include changes in bowel habits, pain or pressure in that area, and unusual discharge from the area. Again, because of the high remission rate when the cancer is detected early, see a doctor if you exhibit any of these symptoms.

What about the HPV Vaccine?
Two vaccines—GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix and Merck’s Gardasil—have been shown to protect against some cancer-causing strains of HPV. However, neither vaccine has been approved for use to specifically prevent anal cancer. You can read more about the vaccine in this post, HPV Vaccine: Cancer Prevention or Corporate Profits?

As with any other form of cancer, knowledge of risk factors and symptoms, along with early detection and treatment, are the keys to better health.

2 Responses to “Farrah’s Death Raises Anal Cancer Awareness”

  1. Laurel

    I applaud companies such as Vibrator.com for taking an interest and active roll in educating people on HPV. While there is Gardasil, for those of you who may not be comfortable with injections, there are alternatives such as BIOglide Safe which has active ingredients which assist in the prevention of HPV.

  2. causes of anal cancer

    Anal cancer is found in rare cancer affecting both male and female. One should avoid smoking. If anyone observes symptoms of it, should consult doctor immediately. Those who are consented to anal intercourse and with depleted immune systems are more prone to this cancer.

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