May 14, 2009
Posted: 08:35 PM ET
(CNN) - The news that one of America's TV icons is suffering from cancer brought sadness. Learning the type of cancer she had made some squeamish.
Farrah Fawcett, shown here in 2004, learned she had cancer in 2006.
Former "Charlie's Angels" actress Farrah Fawcett, 62, was hospitalized this week. She received a diagnosis of anal cancer in 2006.
This type of cancer is less common than rectal and colon cancer, and the location of the tumor and risk factors make people squeamish about discussing it openly, doctors said.
Colon cancer at one time also was not openly talked about, because of the body part and functions affected, but with the public awareness campaigns and celebrities advocating for screenings, it has been largely destigmatized. Anal cancer is less familiar.
Fawcett has not publicly confirmed the specifics of her illness, but is working on a documentary, titled "A Wing and a Prayer," about her health battle.
Anal cancer affects more women and the illness is usually found in people who are in their early 60's. The American Cancer Society estimates that 5,000 new cases of anal cancer are diagnosed each year and about 680 people die from it annually. Meanwhile, colorectal cancer has 148,000 new cases and about 50,000 deaths each year.
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