On the same day that pop singer Michael Jackson unexpectedly died, actress Farrah Fawcett succumbed to the cancer that she had been battling for so long. Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006 and was declared to be in remission a few months later, only to have the cancer return almost one year later.
According to doctors, anal cancer is fairly rare—it “accounts for only about 1 to 2 percent of gastro-intestinal cancers,” but if caught early the prognosis is very good. Dr. Jay Crockett, colon and rectal surgeon in Greenville, SC, said that anal cancer tends to be ignored because “people simply don't want to talk about it, even with their doctors.” Because people are embarrassed to discuss the possibility of them being diagnosed with this type of cancer, hundreds of people die each year. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 5,290 new patients diagnosed with anal cancer and 710 deaths in 2009.
Crockett also explained that “it’s rare that the cancer will spread,” but in Fawcett’s case, that’s exactly what happened. Although she had anal cancer, it spread to her liver and ultimately led to her death.