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Farrah Fawcett Dies of Anal Cancer

Fawcett, 62, Was Diagnosed With Anal Cancer in 2006
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

farrah_fawcett_anal_cancer_faq.jpg

June 25, 2009 -- Former "Charlie's Angel" Farrah Fawcett died today at age 62 after a long struggle with anal cancer, her spokesman told media organizations.

Fawcett's movie and TV roles after Charlie's Angels included The Cannonball Run, The Burning Bed, Small Sacrifices, Extremities, and The Apostle. Fawcett's swimsuit poster made her an icon in the 1970s. She and Ryan O'Neal have a son, Redmond, born in 1985.

Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006.

At the time, Fawcett got radiation and chemotherapy to treat her cancer, but in May 2007, Fawcett learned that her cancer was back and that it had spread to her liver as stage IV cancer.

Fawcett had traveled to Germany six times seeking cancer treatment. That treatment included chemotherapy, surgery to remove the original anal cancer, laser treatments of the tumors in her liver, and other surgeries and procedures that were mentioned but not specified in Farrah's Story, a documentary shown on NBC in May 2009.

That documentary shows Fawcett being told, in early 2008, that her liver tumors were no longer active. Her U.S. doctor, Lawrence Piro, MD, explains in the documentary that Fawcett wasn't cancer free, but that "each of the known sites of tumor in the liver had all been treated and, on scans, were looking inactive." Piro is the president and CEO of The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute in Los Angeles.

But in the spring of 2008, scans showed new tumors in Fawcett's liver and regrowth of her original anal tumor.

In the summer of 2008, Fawcett entered a clinical trial of an experimental drug in the U.S., but those treatments did not prove successful and scans showed that her tumor was progressing. Fawcett also switched to other chemotherapy drugs, which made her hair fall out -- something that Piro says Fawcett had wanted to avoid in her earlier cancer treatment.

After her sixth trip to Germany for more treatments -- described only as "surgical procedures" in her documentary -- Fawcett was hospitalized in April 2009 because of a blood clot.

Comments about Fawcett can be posted on WebMD's news blog

Earlier this year, WebMD spoke to the American Cancer Society's Debbie Saslow, PhD, about anal cancer.  Here's what Saslow shared:

What Is Anal Cancer?

Anal cancer is a rare malignancy that starts in the anus -- the opening at the end of the rectum.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 5,290 new cases of anal cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S in 2009 and that 710 people in the U.S. will die from the disease this year.

For comparison, the American Cancer Society predicts 40,870 new cases of rectal cancer and 106,100 new cases of colon cancer in the U.S. in 2009.

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