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Cancer Health Center

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Farrah Fawcett Dies of Anal Cancer

Fawcett, 62, Was Diagnosed With Anal Cancer in 2006

What Are the Symptoms of Anal Cancer?

In some cases, there are no symptoms associated with anal cancer, but in about half of patients bleeding occurs and is often the first sign of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

Because anal itching can also be a symptom of the cancer, many people initially attribute their bleeding and itching to hemorrhoids.

"Any time people have symptoms, they need to get it checked out even if they think they know what it is," Saslow says. "Anal cancer is rare, so it is not on many people's radar screens."

Other signs and symptoms of anal cancer can include:

  • Pain or pressure in the anal area
  • Unusual discharges from the anus
  • Lump near the anus
  • Change in bowel habits

How Is Anal Cancer Diagnosed?

Anal cancer can be detected during a routine digital rectal exam or during a minor procedure, such as removal of what is believed to be a hemorrhoid.

The cancer may also be found with more invasive procedures such as an anoscopy, proctoscopy, or endorectal ultrasound.

If cancer is suspected, a biopsy will be done and will be examined by a pathologist.

How Is Anal Cancer Treated?

Standard treatments for anal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

According to the American Cancer Society, treatment usually involves two or more of these treatment strategies.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy is currently the most widely used approach to initial treatment.

(Writer Salynn Boyles contributed to this report.)

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