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Cancer Health Center

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Farrah Fawcett Is Fighting Cancer

Actress Is Reportedly Getting Treatment for Anal Cancer

The HPV Connection continued...

"The HPV virus associated with cervical cancer is also associated with anal cancer, so it's a very reasonable expectation that incidence of anal cancer should decrease further if the population gets vaccinated," says Leonard Saltz, MD, an attending physician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

This is probably one more good reason for people to get the HPV vaccine, he tells WebMD.

In addition to HPV infection, smoking, multiple sex partners, and having a weakened immune system may increase risk for anal cancer.

However, some patients who develop anal cancer don't have any risk factors.

Symptoms may include bleeding or itching around the anus, pain in the anal area, a change in bowel habits, a lump in the anal area, swollen lymph nodes in the anal or groin area, and abnormal discharge from the anus.

"Anal cancer is rare, but colorectal cancercolorectal cancer is common and people tend to associate them together, so an awareness of nonspecific symptoms like rectal bleeding may encourage people to see a doctor," Saltz says.

Bright Prognosis

The good news is that most people with anal cancer will be cured. Treatment typically entails surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Media reports suggest that Fawcett is being treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.

"There is a misconception in our society that cancers can't be beaten and cancer can't be treated, but many times, we can successfully treat and cure cancer, and anal cancer, when it's caught early, is quite treatable," says Saltz.

Doctors may find anal cancer early with a rectal exam. During this test the doctor inserts a gloved finger into the anus to feel for lumps or growths.

People at high risk for anal cancer should talk to their doctor about their risk. Those considered at high risk include transplant recipients, HIV-positive people, women who have had cervical cancer or vulvar cancer, and all men who have sex with men.

Fawcett remains optimistic. "I am resolutely strong and I am determined to bite the bullet and fight the fight while going through the next six weeks of cutting edge, state of the art treatment. I should be able to return to my life as it was before at the end of my treatment," she said in a prepared statement.

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