Farrah Fawcett’s death after a lengthy battle with anal cancer, which eventually spread to her liver, spotlights a rare type of the disease.
Anal cancer will strike an estimated 5,300 Americans and cause 710 deaths in 2009, according to the National Cancer Institute. One in 624 men and women will be diagnosed with cancer of the anus, anal canal, or anorectum during their life, which translates to a 0.16% lifetime risk of anal cancer.
It is distinct from — and much less common than — colorectal cancer. Nearly 150,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer this year, and about 50,000 will die. One in 19 Americans will be diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer. The five-year survival rates for the two diseases are similar, however, at around 65%.
The colon is the longest part of the large intestine and the rectum is the part of the large intestine closest to the anus. The anus is the opening of the rectum to the outside of the body.
Fawcett’s cancer remitted in 2007 before doctors told her it was back and had spread to her liver, according to the Los Angeles Times. She was 62 years old.
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