She was a famous actress best known for her role as TV’s Charlie’s Angel. She first became well known in 1976 as a pin-up model and fashion icon. Her iconic hairstyle, worn by women around the world, is today known as the Farrah Fawcett Flip.

 Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. Although her rare cancer was detected early, it was fatal because after her treated cancer came back even worse. Her battle with the disease captured national headlines; a fight that ended with her death on June 25.

The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be “5,290 new cases of anal cancer and 710 deaths from anal cancer in 2009”. Women are more likely to get the disease than men, because they don’t get as many colonoscipies as men. Men are more likely to get a colon check up as way to check their prostrate. The cancer is also mostly found in adults 35 or older, and especially those in their 60’s.

“Anal cancer is a rare malignancy that starts in the anus—the opening at the end of the rectum,” says WebMD. Although the cancer starts in the anus, it can work it way up until it shuts down large body parts like the intestines. In many cases this cancer causes anal tumors, which also partake in the body’s shutdown, states the American Cancer Society.

Many anal cancer cases can be found and treated early, according to the American Cancer Society. This is because doctors are able to find the cancer easily. Doctors can detect anal cancer based on symptoms, such as “bleeding or itching around the anus; pain in the anal area; or swollen lymph nodes in the anal or groin area,” reports the American Cancer Society This cancer is curable, but as you can see from Farrah Fawcett, it can come back.

There are many risk factors for this cancer, such as being infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV), smoking, and a depressed immune system. It is believed that anal cancer can be caused by HPV-16, which is spread through sex, according to the American Cancer Society. Anal sex can be a risk for anyone under 30, especially women. Smoking, on the other hand, can cause cancer-causing chemicals to get into you bloodstream and trigger the cancer. Finally having a weak immune system makes it harder to fight off anal cancer. Someone can have a weakened immune system if they have an organ transplant, suffer from AIDS, or have to take many medicines to control their immune system.

To treat anal cancer patients get radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery (most of the time to remove tumors).