Respectful Insolence

Note the followup post to this one, in which Orac admits error. You just have to read it, given how rarely Orac messes up when speculating…

i-d7c28050e10be3fd17620fafdf8e1f01-Fawcettwheelchair.jpg

Our cancer center has a large, open area interspersed with patient waiting areas, one of which is the clinic where I see patients, that I frequently must traverse to get to the elevators that will take me to my lab. In each patient area is a large-screen television to help patients pass the time during the inevitable wait to be seen by their doctors. As I happened to be wandering through that area on the way to my lab and office, I noticed on one of the TVs tuned to an all news channel that they were talking about Farrah Fawcett. I stopped, curious. The reason is that I have written about Fawcett’s battle with anal cancer and her choice to go with “alternative” medicine after it had recurred. That was nearly a year and a half ago, and back then news stories emphasized that Fawcett was doing well.

Apparently, things are worse for Farrah Fawcett than we had originally been led to believe:

Farrah Fawcett, who was hospitalized for swelling and bleeding following an experimental cancer treatment in Germany, is facing an even tougher battle than first reported.

Her spokesman, producer Craig Nevius, announced late Monday the cancer has spread to her liver.

The actress was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006 and was originally treated at The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center with chemotherapy and radiation. But several unsubstantiated reports say Fawcett has been receiving stem cell treatments in Germany, possibly for more than year.

Nevius said those reports are completely false.

“It’s never had anything to do with stem cells or alternative treatments like shark cartilage, coffee enemas or unproven detoxification diets,” Nevius told the Associated Press.

“It’s much more scientific than that. It’s not a fringe treatment,” he said, and the doctors have “multiple, multiple degrees.”

If what her producer says is true, Fawcett has stage IV cancer, which is incurable, and only around a 20% chance of surviving five years.

At this point, I think it’s worthwhile to review a bit about anal cancer. It’s a relatively uncommon cancer that arises, as you might expect, in the anus. Specifically, it arises where the mucus membrane of the lower rectum meets the anoderm, or the skin that runs partway up into the anus. The cell type from which it arises is not the type of cell that lines the rectum, but rather epithelial cells similar to the types of cells that line the vagina and urethra. One thing that’s unusual about anal cancer is that it’s one of the only solid malignancies that is not treated primarily with surgery. True, in the “old days” it used to be treated with a radical (and, quite frankly, rather brutal) operation known as an abdominal-perineal resection (APR). In this operation, the entire anus and rectum are removed, and the patient is left with a permanent colostomy. Obviously, that was not a popular operation among patients, as you might guess. Personally, as a surgeon I didn’t particularly like doing the operation, either, back when I still did that operation.

Distaste for this operation and a desire to improve outcomes led to the development of a method of treatment known as the Nigro protocol, which involves chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In many ways, this intense combination of chemotherapy and radiation is actually arguably as brutal as surgery, but its advantage is that it spares the anus, and thus has a high probability of preserving continence. Unfortunately, the treatment of local recurrence of anal cancer then usually does involve an APR, although in some cases if the recurrence is small, it’s possible to excise it locally and then treat with more radiation, although the risk of incontinence rises when that’s necessary.

One thing that piqued my interest about this story is how vehemently Nevius denied that Fawcett was undergoing any form of “alternative” therapy. Whenever I see a denial like that, especially when no information is actually given about the treatments being used aside from vague descriptions of a complication from a procedure they wouldn’t identify, my skeptical antennae start twitching something fierce. This is even more true, given that I know from earlier reports that Fawcett had been treated at an “alternative” clinic in Bad Wiessee in southern Germany in conjunction with chemotherapy at the University Clinic in Frankfurt. All of this made me wonder very much what this “alternative” therapy could be.

So, armed with the description of Farrah Fawcett’s complication and the almighty power of Google when wielded by someone with some background knowledge, I think I have come up with what I think to be a pretty likely guess as to what therapy Fawcett is undergoing, and it’s not stem cell therapy, contrary to other reports. (Yes, I realize it is a great power I have, but I try to use it only for good.) First, let’s try to figure out what the complication Fawcett suffered is, starting with this news report:

In separate phone interviews with The Associated Press, Fawcett’s producer and her doctor said that Fawcett is in a Los Angeles hospital, recovering from complications from a medical procedure in Germany, and is “not on death’s door,” as the producer put it.

“She had a minor procedure. That procedure led to a small amount of bleeding into a muscle in her abdominal wall,” which created a hematoma — a sac of blood that caused pressure and pain, said her Los Angeles cancer specialist, Dr. Lawrence Piro. It was “a simple procedure” and a standard one, although Fawcett has also pursued experimental treatments in Germany, he added.

I have to admit that I was totally stumped by this. My first thought was that perhaps she developed a hematoma in her abdominal wall from core needle biopsy of the liver, which can happen. But then, I realized that the key to figuring out what probably happened is location, location, location. Through the magic power of Google, I found that the most likely clinic in Bad Wiessee where Fawcett was treated is Klinik Winnerhof. Moreover, I learned that the “alternative” cancer therapy for which Klinik Winnerhof is best known is galvanotherapy, also sometimes called bio-electric therapy:

In April and May of 1999 when I began investigating German cancer therapies from my base of operations at Klinik Winnerhof in Bad Wiessee, Bavaria, Germany, Dr. med. Pekar contacted me through my friend and cancer consultant Helmut Keller, MD, and asked that I, as a medical journalist who specializes in writing on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), provide broader exposure for his cancer treatment. The doctor desires to allow more patients access to the benefits of his therapy’s efficacy for cancer. He believed that galvanotherapy or bio-electrotherapy was too little known outside of German-speaking medical circles, and he was correct.

Today, at age 90, this inventor of galvanotherapy wants to leave behind a legacy of healing. Consequently, he has given me written permission to quote freely from his 1997 monograph, and I have done so. Here is my interpretation of the monograph Percutaneous Bio-Electrotherapy of Cancerous Tumours by the treatment’s inventor, Dr. med. Rudolph Pekar.

Note one thing right away. Dr. Pekar never published anything in the peer-reviewed medical literature about galvanotherapy. Indeed, PubMed search for articles on galvanotherapy yields only nine articles, only three of which are in English and only one of which, as far as I can tell, has anything to do with cancer. None of them are authored by Dr. Pekar. Whenever you see a practitioner who has practiced many years using a therapy that, according to him, can produced amazing results but is “little known” outside of his clinic, in general there’s a good reason why his therapy is “little known,” especially if he’s never tried to publish his results and instead only publishes a monograph when he’s 90 years old. Be very, very skeptical.

In that spirit, let’s take a look at what is claimed for galvanotherapy:

With great success, the Pekar treatment has already been administered to an estimated 65,000 patients throughout Europe and a few other parts of the world. The bioelectrotherapy (BET) used for galvanotherapy has advantages over surgical intervention. BET does not provoke metastasis. It does not stress the cancer patient. Frequently, its nonanesthetized application hurts in the form of a stinging electric current. But this stinging or burning sensation may be controlled effectively by the patient’s first receiving local injections of lidocaine, xylocaine, or another dental-type anesthetic at the administration site of GT.

Negatively charged particles called anions migrate to the positively charged pole, an anode, in the electrochemical cell. Positively charged particles called cations migrate to the negatively charged pole, a cathode. Between the poles, a charge separation or dissociation occurs. This dissociation damages malignant tissue in the following manner: extremely acidic tissue plus chlorine is generated at the anode; conversely, a markedly alkaline environment plus hydrogen is generated at the cathode. According to their charge, small and large ionic particles such as those in proteins, separate inside of the electrical field. The cancer cells caught between this electrochemical reaction completely depolarize, so that they become permeable and accepting of various substances poisonous to them. Meantime, therapeutic agents are being administered intravenously to the patient. Thus, the tumor tissue at the treated site can no longer maintain its specific equilibrium, and it destabilizes.

Of course, if galvanotherapy has been administered to 65,000 patients, there should be lots of data out there on clinical outcomes, shouldn’t there?

Crickets chirping.

As I often ask of such purveyors of “alternative” cancer cures, where are all these people saved by this modality? Dr. Pekar makes this claim:

From his own practice experience with cancer treatment, Dr. med. Rudolf Pekar says that a 73% rate of remission for not less than three years is what bio-electrotherapy achieves. He does qualify his statement with these words: “It should be noted, though, that in my practice, I have only been able to treat mild and moderate tumours.”

Of course he has. Haven’t they all?

Also, the whole physiological basis described for galvanotherapy is simply nonsense. The simple reason is that, although there are differences in electrical conductivity between normal and tumor tissue, electrical current has the same basic affect on normal and tumor tissue. There’s no basis for differential toxicity towards malignant tissue compared to normal tissue, at least not sufficient to allow a low level electrical current to have such a differential effect. Indeed, to have the effect advertised, the current used would have to be a lot higher, and if it were there wouldn’t be sufficient difference between the conductivity of tumor cells and normal cells to produce the “frying” of the tumor without significant collateral damage. Any cell membranes rendered permeable by electrical current in tumor cells would be matched by a similar effect on normal cells.

I couldn’t find what voltage and current levels are typically used in Dr. Pekar’s galvanotherapy (although the closest thing I could find called it the 9 volt battery cure, but upon further reflection what galvanotherapy reminds me of more than anything else is either Bill Nelson’s Electro Physiological Feedback Xrroid machine, which claims to cure cancer through “quantum” effects but in reality delivers electrical pulses of around 5 mV, or Hulda Clark’s “zapper,” which claims to “zap” parasites using similar low voltage electricity. Clearly, there is a subset of woo involving low voltage electricity. My guess as to the reason is that it’s just so damned easy to make devices to deliver such electricity and then gussy them up with claims such as this one by Dr. Pekar:

Besides the chemical reactions between matter, an additional, more profound countereffect has been observed since Dalton introduced his theory. Matter, particularly biological matter, radiates electromagnetic fields at all times. And Dr. med. Rudolf Pekar, even as a young physician, realized this fact. He states in his book: “Every biological process is also an electric process. Health and sickness are related to the bio-electric currents in our body.”

Although to someone who doesn’t know anything about physiology this sounds profound, but in reality it’s about as banal as saying that “every biological process is also a chemical process.” The reason is that cells have an electrical potential across their plasma membranes, and the mitochondria depend upon proton gradients to generate ATP and thus energy. Equally banal is Dr. Pekar’s statement about why his method never caught on, “”Medizin ist ein Geschäft [Medicine is about making money/Medicine is where a lot of money is and can be made]. And with the method I have developed, there isn’t much money to be made.”

I think Bill Nelson would beg to differ, given that he charges $20,000 a crack for his EPFX machine. Dr. Pekar’s mistake is that he never made galvanotherapy “quantum” enough to rake in the cash hand over fist, as Nelson did.

So here’s my guess about what happened to Farrah Fawcett. I could be totally wrong, but I think it’s a better guess than any I’ve seen thus far based on what I’ve been able to find out. My guess is that woo-meisters at the Klinik Winnerhof tried to treat Fawcett’s liver metastases by percutaneously (through the skin) placing electrodes into her liver in order to do a bit of galvanotherapy on them, but they got into trouble. Specifically, I think they caused a bit of bleeding into her abdominal wall. My guess is that she developed a rectus sheath hematoma when her doc bagged the superior epigastric arteries with a needle used to introduce an electrode. Again, I admit that this is pure speculation, but it’s also educated speculation and it appears to fit the known facts, especially since Fawcett was using a wheelchair and rectus sheath hematomas can be quite painful. I also note that apparently her producer/publicist thinks that, just because the treatment involves electricity, it isn’t “alternative.” He also apparently thinks that keeping things secret will improve the marketability of a made-for-TV documentary Fawcett has made about her pursuit of alternative therapies that is set to air on NBC soon:

An upcoming documentary on which Fawcett has worked for several years, “A Wing and a Prayer,” co-produced with Nevius and others, will air on NBC soon and give details, he said.

Because in Hollywood, dying celebrities = money.

It’s a very horrible thing that Farrah Fawcett is going through. If she does indeed have liver metastases from her anal cancer, she is going to die, and she’s unlikely to make it five years. More likely it’ll be sooner than that. It’s perfectly understandable that she might be desperate and ready to try any dubious treatments that promise to cure her without chemotherapy or surgery. Unfortunately, far too many purveyors of “alternative cancer cures” are all too willing to sell them to her.

ADDENDUM:

Hmmm. It’s possible I was wrong, but we’ll see. I just happened to have found a report from The Times that I had somehow missed last night, Brave Farrah Fawcett has crossed the world in search of a cancer cure – but can she find a miracle? Perhaps my Google-Fu is not as strong as I thought it was. On the other hand, if we believe Nevius’s strong denial that Fawcett is undergoing treatment with shark cartilage or radical diet or “detox” regimens, then galvanotherapy sounds more plausible. Let’s see.

Key excerpts:

In the University Clinic of Frankfurt, she has been treated by Professor Thomas Vogl, 50, who is one of the world’s leading cancer experts. He treated her with a catheter filled with chemotherapy drugs.

Another of her specialists is Dr Ursula Jacob, of the Alpenpark Clinic in Bad Wiessee, 40 miles from the Leonardis. Dr Jacob uses vitamin preparations that she says boost the immune system.

A third specialist is Dr Norbert Pfuetzenreuter, of Mednord centre in Munich. One of Germany’s best-known specialists, his approach is more mainstream.

My first thought was that that “catheter full of chemotherapy drugs” could have accidentally punctured her portal vein, assuming it was being used to infuse those drugs into the liver, but that would not explain an abdominal wall hematoma. On the other hand, Dr. Jacob is into some serious woo, such as alkalinization therapy and the Gerson diet.

More:

The Leonardis clinic claims to have one of the highest success rates in Germany. On admission, Farrah’s blood was analysed as part of a ‘special chemo sensitivity test’. ‘This involves using DNA to detect your sensitivity not only to chemos, but also to various herbal and nutritional therapies,’ a clinic source said.

According to sources, Farrah was given liquid shark cartilage to stop angiogenisis (the process by which tumours develop their own blood supply), injections of the mineral selenium, injections of vitamin D and calcium and an amino acid mix to protect her liver from chemotherapy.

A clinic source said: ‘She has been having conventional and alternative treatments, and she remains positive, which is the main thing.

Oh, well. I might have been wrong; if the report above is accurate, Fawcett she isn’t at the clinic where I had guessed her to be However, none of the dubious therapies above explains how she got what sounds very much like a rectus sheath hematoma as well as my explanation can, unless they’re doing some of those injections right into the rectus sheath deep enough to hit one of the epigastric vessels. Also, this is the only source where I’ve found all this other information on the specific alternative medical woo that Fawcett is supposedly undergoing, which makes me wonder about its accuracy as well. I suppose we’ll have to wait for her movie to find out.

What this also makes me wonder about is this: Why are there are so many clinics of woo in southern Germany near the Alps?

Comments

  1. #1 John H
    April 7, 2009

    I can see the ghost of Steve McQueen hovering over her shoulder.

    His shade is saying “I escaped from the Germans and so should you”.

  2. #2 AntlhonyK
    April 7, 2009

    “A wing and a Prayer” – you can just imagine the whole thing, can’t you? And what sickens me already about it, is that you can bet that the narrative will suggest that the reason she died (assuming that she does – you say 20% in 5 years based on experience) when she dies, her death will be blamed not on “Just cancer” or on “refusing proper medicine and going to quacks instead” but, I bet, on “harsh western medicine” aka “allopathy”. It will be any conventional treatments that are blamed for her death, and, well, doctors like you Orac.
    It will be just like that, won’t it? Sigh. Never mind, you do so much to counter woo no doubt you’ll counter the nonsense too as soon as it comes out!

  3. #3 Michael
    April 7, 2009

    This is a sad story. From reading Orac’s research, it appears that, and correct me if I’m wrong, she had a very treatable cancer with a high “cure” rate up until the moment she took off to Germany.

    I personally think that if someone’s chances of survival from a terminal disease hovers in the low single digits, and if you have the money, then do as you wish, it won’t do anything, but maybe hope is strong enough to at least make you feel better. My end plan if I had a terminal disease is find the leading centers of scientific research and discuss it with them, whatever the cost.

    But Fawcett went to this alternative therapy when she had a good chance of survival. Now her prognosis is limited at best. I just wish the real story was more broadly told.

  4. #4 anon
    April 7, 2009

    I’d just like to point out that Google is a useful tool, and it might behoove the skeptical community to realise such… much like you did in this post. Does this mean that you, too, have a degree from the University of Google? No, it doesn’t.

    Second, while I appreciate that you’ve taken care to preserve the integrity of her condition and her privacy [kind of] magnifying a person’s hardship that relates to terminal illness to “prove” that alternative medicine is quackery leaves a bad taste in the mouth regardless of my position… which happens to be the same as yours.

  5. #5 D. C. Sessions
    April 7, 2009

    If she does indeed have liver metastases from her anal cancer, she is going to die

    And if not, she’s still going to die. Only the details are different.

    I just don’t get this mass denial. It seems that we-as-a-culture haven’t come to terms with our own individual mortality.

    It’s perfectly understandable that she might be desperate and ready to try any dubious treatments that promise to cure her without chemotherapy or surgery.

    I think we have a reality disconnect here. To me, that kind of desperation is not understandable in any meaningful way. Then again, I suspect that those who feel as Ms. Fawcett does can’t really identify with my “we’re all dying. What are you going to do with the life you have left?” perspective, either.

  6. #6 Calli Arcale
    April 7, 2009

    There’s been a subset of woo involving low voltage electricity since longer than this guy Pekar has been alive. There’s actually a wonderful little museum here in the Twin Cities (in Minneapolis) called the Bakken Library. It’s dedicated mostly to early electrical stuff — scientific and otherwise. A lot of it is 19th and early 20th Century quackery, some quite inventive. If you ever have occasion to visit the Twin Cities, I highly recommend it.

  7. #7 Orac
    April 7, 2009

    I’d just like to point out that Google is a useful tool, and it might behoove the skeptical community to realise such… much like you did in this post. Does this mean that you, too, have a degree from the University of Google? No, it doesn’t.

    Google is indeed an incredibly useful tool if you have the background knowledge and training to separate the wheat from the chaff. Jenny McCarthy does not, nor does anyone in the antivaccine movement that I’ve seen thus far. My university is my medical education, research, and practice, not Google. Google is merely a tool that my medical education makes more effective. My disparagement of the “university of Google” comes from people who think that Google knowledge substitutes for background knowledge, apparently unaware that Google is horrible at separating pseudoscience from science and that what comes up first in a Google search is usually the most linked-to, not the most reliable.

    Second, while I appreciate that you’ve taken care to preserve the integrity of her condition and her privacy [kind of] magnifying a person’s hardship that relates to terminal illness to “prove” that alternative medicine is quackery leaves a bad taste in the mouth regardless of my position… which happens to be the same as yours.

    Nothing I discovered is not easily found (if you know what to look for) from information publicly available online, with a little educated speculation thrown in. Moreover, it’s a straw man to claim that I’m using person’s hardship to “prove” that alternative medicine is quackery. What I was doing was seeing if I could find out exactly what form of “alternative” therapy that Fawcett is undergoing, given that she and her producer/publicist are intentionally keeping it quiet, apparently in order to “save the surprise” for her made-for-TV movie that is soon to be aired. (My guess is that it will be aired in May.) In doing so, I discovered a new form of dubious cancer therapy about which I had previously been unaware, at least in the form galvanotherapy takes.

    Finally, regarding Michael’s comment, someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that FF underwent standard Nigro protocol therapy for anal cancer when she was first diagnosed in 2006. It was after her local recurrence last year that she turned to woo. In other words, she’s a patient for whom standard therapy failed. The difference is that she’s suffering complications from dubious procedures that are of no known benefit.

  8. #8 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 7, 2009

    Second, while I appreciate that you’ve taken care to preserve the integrity of her condition and her privacy [kind of] magnifying a person’s hardship that relates to terminal illness to “prove” that alternative medicine is quackery leaves a bad taste in the mouth regardless of my position… which happens to be the same as yours.

    Can you suggest a better way to illustrate what relying on unproven woo can do? Yes it is a tragic situation but one that possibly could have been avoided if not for her getting and trusting bad advice.

  9. #9 Uncle Dave
    April 7, 2009

    Orac wrote;

    “Of course, if galvanotherapy has been administered to 65,000 patients, there should be lots of data out there on clinical outcomes, shouldn’t there?

    Crickets chirping.”

    Literary technique or the theater of the written word.

    This was actually a very informative read on this disease, entertaining as well.

  10. #10 Uncle Dave
    April 7, 2009

    “My university is my medical education, research, and practice, not Google. Google is merely a tool that my medical education makes more effective.”

    The ease at which one can reach for and get information these days through the web search engine is incredible. The ease at which someone can find information of suspect integrity and begin to run with it is clearly pointed out here.

    Google can really stimulate the A.D.H.D. prone.

    Have you ever done this surgery? No. But I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.

  11. #11 Lancelot Gobbo
    April 7, 2009

    Another cancer that would possibly have been prevented if Gardasil had been available when she was young, given that many anal carcinomas are related to HPV.

  12. #12 Dianne
    April 7, 2009

    I’m pretty sure that FF underwent standard Nigro protocol therapy for anal cancer when she was first diagnosed in 2006. It was after her local recurrence last year that she turned to woo.

    If so, she would still have had a pretty good chance of survival, if not continence, with standard therapy, i.e. a resection of the tumor. I wonder if fear of the procedure and the resulting colostomy sent her to the woo side of things. I can’t blame her–I’d be pretty unhappy if my doctor told me I needed an operation to remove my rectum and anus too–but it’s tragic that this happened.

  13. #13 storkdok
    April 7, 2009

    “On admission, Farrah’s blood was analysed as part of a ‘special chemo sensitivity test’. ‘This involves using DNA to detect your sensitivity not only to chemos, but also to various herbal and nutritional therapies,’ a clinic source said. ”

    How anyone can say this with a straight face is beyond me. The clinic source must be a very good actor.

    @Orac

    I know the best shot at the treatment of the anal cancer and preserving anatomy is radiation tx. When there is a local re-occurance, is the next option surgery, like the APR? Or do you do a posterior exenteration? I’m just thinking of our cervical cancer options in comparison. The GYN Oncs only real option after radiation, for a possible cure, is a radical hysterectomy or if more tissue has been invaded, a posterior/anterior exenteration.

  14. #14 The Crack Emcee
    April 7, 2009

    “Why are there are so many clinics of woo in southern Germany near the Alps?”

    It’s the same reason these freaks gather in Sedona, Arizona: Because these are cultists (German variety) and they believe in “Ley Lines” and, naturally, a lot of them cross there, which give NewAgers “power” or “energy” or whatever Hitler thought he was grooving on.

    One day, Orac, you’re gonna like me,…

  15. #15 Danio
    April 7, 2009

    Once again I have to tip my hat to Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the medical correspondent on the Today show. They covered Farrah’s health issues yesterday and had Snyderman on to comment, who stated very compassionately, but without reservation, that the alternative therapies (there described as either stem cell or shark cartilage tx) were complete shite. She’s been unwaveringly pro-vaccine in the past, as well, so I definitely value her contribution to the program, as it is often so speculative and sensationalized when presenting health topics.

    while I appreciate that you’ve taken care to preserve the integrity of her condition and her privacy [kind of] magnifying a person’s hardship that relates to terminal illness to “prove” that alternative medicine is quackery leaves a bad taste in the mouth

    I completely disagree, as this case is clearly and tragically yet another rebuttal to the ‘shruggies’ who don’t see any real harm in alternative medicine. If FF is indeed coming out with some infomercial television special on alternative cancer treatment, people advocating for the evidence-based treatment need to be heard as well.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up, Orac.

  16. #16 AnthonyK
    April 7, 2009

    A general comment, specifically about this blog, but applying to others as well – isn’t it marvellous the way that Orac can communicate about what he does, and make that part of a resurgence, almost of natural philosophy?
    I get so much from learning about how science/medicine is, and how people do it. The significance of posts, like this one, seems to me to go way beyond comments on this sad case to be something which, itself, might save a life, or at least prolong a few.
    At its heart is the hopelessness of people who are preyed on by pseudo-doctors, and in the way that people with autistic children put their blame solely on vaccination and fail to see the person with autism at the real heart of their autistic child. It’s reality denial, and Orac’s posts on all these topics are a new and wonderful tool we have. I think it’s a kind of art – and a damn useful one.

  17. #17 D. C. Sessions
    April 7, 2009

    Finally, regarding Michael’s comment, someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that FF underwent standard Nigro protocol therapy for anal cancer when she was first diagnosed in 2006.

    Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but I got the impression that she wasn’t diagnosed until the tumor was pretty advanced. That, or it’s a fast-moving one.

    In which case she might have blown her best chance by putting off that initial exam. Maybe there’s a lesson here.


    dcs, who is due for another tailpipe exam of his own.
    Not like the annual prostate check isn’t annoying enough, but life is good. Besides, the kids are taking their time with the “grandchild” thing.

  18. #19 Inquisitive Raven
    April 7, 2009

    AnthonyK: I think you misread what Orac had to say about the probability of mortality. FF has a 20% chance of surviving five years. That means she has an 80% chance of dying in that time frame.

    Anyway, liver metastases are what got my sister although she started out with an adrenal carcinoma, not anal cancer. AFAIK, she never got alternative treatments. My father, who used to be a cancer researcher, saw to that.

  19. #20 diegesis
    April 7, 2009

    “and the doctors have multiple, multiple degrees”

    From all he said, that’s when I started doubting her treatment. It seems the more degrees one says he has, the less science you get. Especially when you’ve never heard of such degrees (I once met a “doctor” who said he was a pathologist of emotions – if I translated it correctly. Have you thought of collecting all those “doctor” degree names in a post? It would be fun. Like a woo – degree base). :)

    But then of course, came you with the power and I really hope you are wrong. :(

  20. #21 adina
    April 7, 2009

    I am hopeful that the Gardasil vaccine will dramatically diminish the incidence of anal cancer. Most anal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas caused by the HPV virus, and the HPV vaccine targets the strains that cause most HPV infections. Gardasil has, as of yet, only been approved to prevent cervical cancer, but it would likely prevent anal cancer, as well, and will also be given to boys.

  21. #22 Joseph C.
    April 7, 2009

    I’d just like to point out that Google is a useful tool, and it might behoove the skeptical community to realise such… much like you did in this post. Does this mean that you, too, have a degree from the University of Google? No, it doesn’t.

    Google is a great tool. Internet searching SUCKED before Google came along.

    But, is Google making us stupid?

  22. #23 Orac
    April 7, 2009

    It might be. It turns out my guess was very likely wrong as to the cause of FF’s hematoma. I’ll explain why in a post I’ll write tonight. Why, oh why do I have to idly do more searches while waiting for my files to back up?

    I’m so bummed, because I hate being wrong. Perhaps my Google-Fu isn’t as good as I thought it was. Either that or I didn’t drill deep enough into the Google search results.

    In any case, FF did pursue woo, as far as I can tell, but it probably wasn’t the woo that caused her complication.

  23. #24 Reality Rounds
    April 7, 2009

    From most reports, Farrah did everything that conventional medicine had to offer. Even with all that, like Orac stated, anal cancer has a very high mortality rate. Once her cancer spread to her liver, what other options would conventional medicine have given her? I certainly I’m not for alternative medicines to treat cancer, especially if they cause more harm than good. I will be very curious to see what these treatments were, and if they were sold to her as a cure. In the mean time, she is a dying woman who made a choice. If she not actively promoting them to the public, aka Jenny McCarthy, why do we care?

  24. #25 Heraclides
    April 7, 2009

    Why are there are so many clinics of woo in southern Germany near the Alps?

    My own guess is that historically, and still today, the alpine regions of Europe are commonly the site of “spas” with various “healing centres”.

    “On admission, Farrah’s blood was analysed as part of a ‘special chemo sensitivity test’. ‘This involves using DNA to detect your sensitivity not only to chemos, but also to various herbal and nutritional therapies,’ a clinic source said. “

    Someone is giving out a “personalised medicine” spiel before personalised medicine has even arrived! There is research with a long-term goal towards this general sort of thing, but it’s some way off.

  25. #26 Tsu Dho Nimh
    April 7, 2009

    If she not actively promoting them to the public, aka Jenny McCarthy, why do we care?

    But she IS. There’s some sort of “documentary” coming soon.

  26. #27 spudbeach
    April 7, 2009

    Why are there so many woo centers in southern Germany? As a guess, probably from the use of mountain sanitariums for curing tuberculosis. Before effective antibiotics, clean air and less stress probably helped as much as anything, so going away to the mountains was the thing to do. Once the region got a reputation as the place to go for a cure, it just switched diseases.

    It’s a guess, anyway.

  27. #28 Marilyn Mann
    April 7, 2009

    A profoundly sad story.

  28. #29 DLC
    April 8, 2009

    Your post on electrotherapy reminded me of this
    http://www.museumofquackery.com/devices/magneto.htm

  29. #30 Marcus Ranum
    April 8, 2009

    Wasn’t HIPAA supposed to help keep patient information secret? (LOL)

  30. #31 Mu
    April 8, 2009

    The high number of woo clinics in Germany is an artifact of their health care reform. Throughout the 70′s and 80′s, German workers could go for “Kur”, basically rest and relaxation paid for by the health insurance, for minor ailments. Back pain, sleeplessness, stomach trouble, you name it, every three years you could get a doctor’s pass for 3 weeks of treatment – not counted against your 6 weeks of annual vacation of course. Due to the widespread abuse of this practice, this got basically abolished, leaving a large number of specialized clinics without customers. The ones without any true medical reason of being either died or reinvented themselves via woo. Woo is paid by the customer after all, no need to get insurance approval.

  31. #32 Joseph C.
    April 8, 2009

    Throughout the 70′s and 80′s, German workers could go for “Kur”, basically rest and relaxation paid for by the health insurance, for minor ailments. Back pain, sleeplessness, stomach trouble, you name it, every three years you could get a doctor’s pass for 3 weeks of treatment – not counted against your 6 weeks of annual vacation of course.

    Oh man. The good ole days, indeed. Getting 3 extra weeks in Baden-Baden on top of 6 weeks worth of vacation.

  32. #33 Lisa
    April 17, 2009

    Farrah Fawcett is such a beautiful woman and lovely person,it’s so sad this is happening to her. I wish her well and may she receive a miracle and be blessed with renewed health for a joyous longer life. God Bless you Farrah.

  33. #34 d kelly
    April 19, 2009

    i have faith in her i think she will live
    but i had an operation 3 years ago any operation cancer or no cancer its like living a new life with four legs
    forget what you had just pray to god that life is still their for you.Because he put use hear so he can cure you
    remember that actors or hockey players we all have the same
    life standards.
    my story is simple a am canadian i enjoy what i have
    an i will take the life that is left hear and if you are
    fifty and over after 45 to me working or not you should
    emjoy whats left of this life.

    thanks
    d.kelly
    engineer

  34. #35 Deb
    May 7, 2009

    This is bull. No one survives colorectal cancer.They may live for 4-5 years and that’s pushing the envelope. Very few longer than that. I worked with a general surgeon who died of this horrible disease within 3 years. Any doctor who says you are cancer free is a LIAR! These cells are so small and can be located anywhere in your body even though they took out what they COULD SEE. It’s what they can’t see that gets you. Cancer is not a death sentence if caught early on but once it metastisizes it’s a done deal as it was with my sister-in-law and one of my best friends and my doctor.

  35. #36 Orac
    May 7, 2009

    Uh, no, Deb. Five year survival for colorectal cancer metastatic to the liver that can be successfully resected surgically is around 30%, possibly higher. Granted, such patients are in the minority of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, but prolonged survival has been documented.

  36. #37 Reggie B
    May 8, 2009

    I am all for the public being very much informed about woo medicine. Giving cancer patients and their families false hopes is a terrible thing not to mention the money that these clinics rack in for BS. I use to work in a hospital and saw many young kids die of all sorts of cancers. Even by acceptable methods some will live and some will die that depends on a great many factors. Once the cancer returns and spreads to a different part of the body as it did in FF case starting last year, her chances of survival were far from favorable. So now something short of a miracle will save her. The thing that bothers me most is that people other than herself will now make the money off of her maybe even Ryan himself and just maybe she is being used till her dying day and afterwards too. Sad commentary on human nature.

  37. #38 Shana
    May 12, 2009

    Deviant actions deserve horrible and painful consequences.

  38. #39 Marissa
    May 12, 2009

    A highly respected alternative medicine practitioner Dr. Lao, here in the Philippines recently prescribed what she described as “Miracle Water” to a friend of mine for her son’s ailment. She enthusiastically told her that this was a cure all and has known to have cured prostate and other cancers.derived from Onions, it looks and smells like water, it tastes as salty as sea water. It is made by an old man in Tarlac (province). To make a long story short, i purchased this water and tried it for other applications such as using it as deodorant,gargle, douche and wiping it on insect bites and i am amazed how well it works!Pharmaceutical companies have offered to buy the formula but the old man refuses to sell because he wants it accessible to the poor and it’s original formula untampered.Maybe this is worth looking into. upon purchase, one is provided with pages explaining it’s origins and scientific tests done by Government agencies…

  39. #40 sara
    May 13, 2009

    My Mom was recently diagnosed with a adno squamous variation of anal cancer, stage III )B I believe) minimally present in surrounding nodes and a small sized tumor and is being treated at MSK. Currently she is undergoing the Nigro protocol of raditation and chemotherapy. The oncologist recommended surgery, the surgeon recemmended treatment with close monitoring (every 3 months) and when presented at tumor board they decided treatment with reevaluation approx 6 weeks. The oncologist pointed out that even after treatment, cancer cells could remain and could cause local reoccurance and potentially spread to other organs even if a PET scan reveals no evidence of cancer at the 6 weeks following treatment. I am curious to know if this was FF’s case. Had she opted for a more aggressive intial treatment, that I know involves an unpleasant surgery, would she be in this situation? Do you just go for the surgery when after the chemo radiation treatment shows a negative PET to be sure? Or only if evidence of reoccurance is shown do you do the APR? My fear is that no evidence of cancer will show on a PET and similar to FF it will reoccur and have spread to other organs and then even an APR will not be helpful. Its hard to push someone to have a surgery that is fairly unpleasant in its results, even if the lathroscopic procedure is more pleasant when no evidence of cancer exists, but when is it better safe than sorry?
    I am so thankful to FF for bringing more attention to this very rarely discussed cancer. Even if it just makes it easier to say the words anal cancer instead of discribing it as a form of colorectal cancer.

  40. #41 Just a little info
    May 15, 2009

    In response to article above.
    Just some info FYI

    There are non-invasive locoregional treatments that are well accepted for control of metastatic disease, especially in the liver.

    A few of these are similar in concept to that of galvanotherapies…. don’t be so quick to dismiss!

    These are all performed percutaneously without making a large incision in the skin. Specialists in Vascular and Image guided therapeutics called Interventional Radiologists perform the procedure using xrays/ultrasound to see what they are doing so they don’t open the patient.

    If interested please websearch the following…

    Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
    Microwave Ablation
    Cryoablation
    Trans-arterial Chemotherapeutic Embolization(TACE)
    Electroporation

    Best of luck to FF, she is doing a great thing raising these issues.

  41. #42 Kim Box
    May 17, 2009

    FARRAH ,I JUST WENT THERE BREST CANCER MYSELF. ALL GOOD ‘THE THING I WANTED TO TELL YOU IS MY UNCLE HAD SMALL SELL CANCER, I DON’T NOW IF YOU KNOW OR IF YOU STILL CARE. BUT THEY GAVE MY UNCLE MAX. 6TH MONTHS TO LIVE, WELL HE IS STILL ALIVE IT’S BEEN ALMOST 5YEARS. I DONT WANT ANY MONEY I JUST WANT YOU TO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST, AND PAIN FREE. THE NAME ON THE PRODUCT IS NONA A SHOT IN THR MORNEY, AND A SHOT AT NITE. IT TASTE BAD, BUT IF YOU BUT BLUEBERRY IT TASTE JUST LIKE BLUEBERRY. TRUST ME, YOU’LL THANK ME..
    IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTION PLEASE CALL ME A 407-738-9398,OR 919-771-4152. E-MAIL okdkprojen@YAHOO.COM

    P.S. FARRAH, THIS IS NOT A JOKE, AND I CAN REALLY HELP. WHAT CAN IT HURT. SOMETHING THAT WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE.

  42. #43 Knappy
    May 29, 2009

    It does not appear from FF’s documentary that she used holistic medicine or if she had, that info was repressed. I disagree with one blogger that stated that allopathy will be blamed, alternative is going to be blamed, but it would have been good for FF and others if this film was at least informative about healing and it was not.. Besides the many flaws in her therapy that I noticed in the film – who drinks Coke when you have cancer?

    Here’s my cancer story: To all the above skeptics regarding what is now known as “integrative medicine” (the combining of orthodox [chemo, radiation and surgery] and complimentary, alternative, holistic protocols, I was diagnosed with colon cancer almost 2 years ago after having cramping in my digestive track? tract? for a period of 2-3 years. At that time tumor was found – 13 centimeters (approx. 5″). Before conventional therapy was started, a scan indicated that the tumor was 9 cm, 4 cm smaller than a year earlier, after doing only alternative approaches for 6 months.

    To shorten a long story, about mid Feb 2009, I simultaneously began a protocol of chemotherapy every 2 weeks along with a very aggressive holistic protocol (supports my immune system, assists the chemo drugs to attack the tumor, alleviates side effects of chemotherapy).

    All I can tell you is that contrary to what I was told about chemo (its affects are accumulative and get worse over time), instead of my side effects getting worse, they have become diminished (I just finished my 12th week of aggressive chemo) or completely disappeared. I suffered probably at most 8-10 hours on two separate occasions in the beginning of the therapy, of nausea, my hair is thicker and stronger than it’s been in years, my energy level is through the roof, a fistula (which formed just before chemo started) from the tumor to my bladder to my abdomen (which leaked copious amounts of urine – that was fun) has completely healed to my doctors’ amazement, and oddly I have gained close to 25 pounds! I don’t know how to explain it. I would hope that all of you would agree that chemo alone would not have had this result. I am due for a PET/CT scan next week and will let you know the progress of this therapy. I also talk with energy healers over the phone, have raiki (sp?)administered by a friend, have friends pray for me, have acupuncture – who knows what works – I am using it all – I am banging that tumor with everything out there. I have been blessed with a great attitude which is more than half the battle.

    True statistics from Orthodox medicine/allopathy show that only 3-5% of people who grow cancer actually live out a full life. Not great statistics. Wouldn’t you try alternative with those rates of return? You would if you read just one book on alternative protocols: “Outsmart Your Cancer” by Tanya Pierce – you’ll read proven alternative cancer therapies – all formulated/invented by doctors, actually geniuses, not quacks. You’ll also read the obvious as to why these modalities aren’t in the mainstream – $$$. All the best to all of you.

  43. #44 Colin Cody
    May 29, 2009

    Trying to cure a disease without having at least a pretty good general idea of what it is strikes me as being an exercise in sheer futility. Oncologists and medical researchers here in America don’t seem to have a clue about what cancer actually is. Everyone has a different idea and few can agree on anything.

    Not long after my friend, Steve, died of bladder cancer, I stumbled onto an Italian oncologist who gives solid evidence of having discovered what cancer really is and, therefore, how to get rid of it. He has been at it for over 30 years now in Rome with a verifiable 90% cure rate. (The 10% failure rate consists of those with bone cancer who cannot be helped with his protocol.)

    I am from a family of alopathic MDs, however, were I to be diagnosed with any kind of cancer other than that in my bones, I would fly to Rome for his treatment immediately and be permanently cured within 48 days. My friend, Steve, who was a handsome, powerfully built weight lifter would have been cured of his bladder cancer much more rapidly than that, perhaps in only a couple of weeks. As it turned out, it took him nine months to die in agony from conventional treatment.

    Farrah Fawcett could experience a complete cure in the same 48 days were she familiar with the work of Dr. Tulio Simoncini, the first doctor to discover the true nature of cancer and its cure. His web site is http://www.cancerfungus.com for those with at least two honest brain cells to rub together. His book (in English) is “Cancer is a Fungus.”

  44. #45 Colin Cody
    May 29, 2009

    Trying to cure a disease without having at least a pretty good general idea of what it is strikes me as being an exercise in sheer futility. Oncologists and medical researchers here in America don’t seem to have a clue about what cancer actually is. Everyone has a different idea and few can agree on anything.

    Not long after my friend, Steve, died of bladder cancer, I stumbled onto an Italian oncologist who gives solid evidence of having discovered what cancer really is and, therefore, how to get rid of it. He has been at it for over 30 years now in Rome with a verifiable 90% cure rate. (The 10% failure rate consists of those with bone cancer who cannot be helped with his protocol.)

    I am from a family of alopathic MDs, however, were I to be diagnosed with any kind of cancer other than that in my bones, I would fly to Rome for his treatment immediately and be permanently cured within 48 days. My friend, Steve, who was a handsome, powerfully built weight lifter would have been cured of his bladder cancer much more rapidly than that, perhaps in only a couple of weeks. As it turned out, it took him nine months to die in agony from conventional treatment.

    Farrah Fawcett could experience a complete cure in the same 48 days were she familiar with the work of Dr. Tulio Simoncini, the first doctor to discover the true nature of cancer and its cure. His web site is http://www.cancerfungus.com for those with at least two honest brain cells to rub together. His book (in English) is “Cancer is a Fungus.”

  45. #46 Mu
    May 29, 2009

    Ah, Dr. “it’s white so it’s a fungus”. I think he’s been discussed on this blog a few times.

  46. #47 Lucile
    June 12, 2009

    Ms. Fawcett didn’t start going to the German clinics until the latter half of 2007 after she had Stage 4 Liver metastatis and was given her terminal diagnosis by UCLA.
    She went through radiation and chemo starting in October 2006 and was declared by her UCLA doctor in remission and “cancer free” on her 60th birthday in Feb. 2007.
    She goes in for her three month check-up in May 2007 and finds that she’s not only not cancer free but has Stage 4 Metastatis to her liver.
    She’s been living with a terminal diagnosis since 2007 and then tried the German clinics on recommendation from her friend Cher.

  47. #48 Lucile
    June 12, 2009

    Ms. Fawcett didn’t start going to the German clinics until the latter half of 2007 after she had Stage 4 Liver metastatis and was given her terminal diagnosis by UCLA.
    She went through radiation and chemo starting in October 2006 and was declared by her UCLA doctor in remission and “cancer free” on her 60th birthday in Feb. 2007.
    She goes in for her three month check-up in May 2007 and finds that she’s not only not cancer free but has Stage 4 Metastatis to her liver.
    She’s been living with a terminal diagnosis since 2007 and then tried the German clinics on recommendation from her friend Cher.

  48. #49 BJ
    June 26, 2009

    Well Doc guess you were right…she died after 2-3yrs battling the cancer, which did in fact spread to her liver. It’s really sad but medical officials can now investigate and learn from Ms. Fawcett’s case. FF is now in a better place and may she rest in peace.

  49. #50 SR
    June 26, 2009

    I am saddened by Farrah’s death. This is the first and only place that I have read that she had Chemo and Radiation (Nigro)initially.

    When I had Anal Cancer 11-12 years ago there was no info on the Internet.There was nothing in the cancer books. It didn’t fit the description of Colon or rectal cancers. My Drs. knew nothing about Anal Cancer. They kept thinking ‘it’ was a Hemorrhoid. Further they missed my ‘Invasive Cervical Cancer’. They knew nothing about Nigro. After 9 mos of my complaining and 3 specialist appts., a surgeon found a 2 cm Squamous cell carcinoma of the anal verge. I had always had a ‘clean PAP’ and had one after the anal cancer diagnosis.

    Fortunately I went to Mass. Gen’l,had a wonderful team ( Radiation Onocologist, GYN Onocolgist and Chemo Oncologist) who knew about the disease. They ‘found’ a 4 cm tumor ( 10 days after my 2 cm diagnosis) and diagnosed Invasive Cervical Cancer as a second primary ( 10 days after a ‘clean PAP smear’ from my HMO primary care Dr. .

    After the Nigro treatment I had a total hysterectomy along with an omenectomy and removal of many lymph nodes. I am now certain that it spared my life!

    My insurance company didn’t even know what a PET scan was asking if I meant CAT scan.

    After hearing that Farrah’s initial tumor was ‘the size of a peanut’…which would have been smaller than mine… I am feeling very blessed to have been spared the agony she suffered and death. Perhaps her mission in life was to bring awareness about Anal Cancer and also about abuse of women.

  50. #51 SR
    June 26, 2009

    I am saddened by Farrah’s death. This is the first and only place that I have read that she had Chemo and Radiation (Nigro)initially.

    When I had Anal Cancer 11-12 years ago there was no info on the Internet.There was nothing in the cancer books. It didn’t fit the description of Colon or rectal cancers. My Drs. knew nothing about Anal Cancer. They kept thinking ‘it’ was a Hemorrhoid. Further they missed my ‘Invasive Cervical Cancer’. They knew nothing about Nigro. After 9 mos of my complaining and 3 specialist appts., a surgeon found a 2 cm Squamous cell carcinoma of the anal verge. I had always had a ‘clean PAP’ and had one after the anal cancer diagnosis.

    Fortunately I went to Mass. Gen’l,had a wonderful team ( Radiation Onocologist, GYN Onocolgist and Chemo Oncologist) who knew about the disease. They ‘found’ a 4 cm tumor ( 10 days after my 2 cm diagnosis) and diagnosed Invasive Cervical Cancer as a second primary ( 10 days after a ‘clean PAP smear’ from my HMO primary care Dr. .

    After the Nigro treatment I had a total hysterectomy along with an omenectomy and removal of many lymph nodes. I am now certain that it spared my life!

    My insurance company didn’t even know what a PET scan was asking if I meant CAT scan.

    After hearing that Farrah’s initial tumor was ‘the size of a peanut’…which would have been smaller than mine… I am feeling very blessed to have been spared the agony she suffered and death. Perhaps her mission in life was to bring awareness about Anal Cancer and also about abuse of women.

  51. #52 sandi delong
    June 26, 2009

    surgery first, then chemo. My best friend died of breast cancer at age 31 because they “wanted to shrink the tumor” first. My mom got breast cancer several years ago, and I told her to get a mastectomy first, then chemo, and she is a 3 year survivor. Farrah screwed up by not getting surgery first.

  52. #53 Orac
    June 26, 2009

    Sandi,

    You’re quite wrong about this, I’m afraid.

    In the case of a small anal cancer (which is what Farrah Fawcett had), the standard of care is a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation known as the Nigro protocol. The reason the Nigro protocol was developed was because people quite correctly don’t like to have an abdominoperineal resection, which involves taking the entire anus and rectum, sewing the hole shut, and constructing a permanent colostomy. The survival rates with the Nigro protocol are equivalent to what is obtained with radical surgery requiring a permanent colostomy and the sewing shut of the bunghole, so to speak. Fawcett was treated appropriately.

    As for breast cancer, neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy first, then surgery) results in the same 5- and 10-year survival rates as surgery first and then adjuvant chemotherapy. Moreover, although it is a common misconception that a mastectomy will improve the odds of survival in breast cancer, that is a misconception. It won’t. The survival is the same for lumpectomy followed by radiation as it is for mastectomy.

  53. #54 Mary Nessler
    June 27, 2009

    I am an anal cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in June of 2001. My colon rectal specialist said it is the “best” cancer to because 9 of 10 patients are cured. I had a regiment of meutimiacin (not sure how to spell it and 5 FU
    chemo and radiation. I lost some hair but not all. I wonder if they caught Farrah’s anal cancer in time. After seeing her documentory last night she had a lot of damage to tissue by the time she went to Germany for surgery. It blows my mind to know that with all her money and stardom , she died of the cancer I survived. I knew what she she was going through as I watch last night, I have been emotional and it reminded me of some of what I went through. My thoughts and prayers go out to Farrah’s family and friends and Ryan. I give him credit for sticking by her through it all. She was stayed strong until the end. I just found out a friend has lung and brain cancer yesterday and got so angry, I ask God to erradicate this awful disease. I have had 2 other people die last July and in April 2009 from cancer. I admire Farrah’s courage I just wanted God to take me from this world when I fought cancer but He wantes me here. I still get scared sometimes with weird sensations near the canal. Ionly wish Farrah would have had the treatment I had, she probably would have won the battle. It was rough but not as rough as she went through. Lets all pray that cancer of any kind gets erradicated for our world!! Mary Tampa, FL

  54. #55 Mary Nessler
    June 27, 2009

    I am an anal cancer survivor of 8 years nest month. I wonder if Farrah’s oncologist even tried meutimiacin (not sure how ot spell this) and 5 FU and radiation. I was told that 9 in 10 patients survive this cancer. The regiment was rough but not like what Farrah went through. It blows my mind with her money and stardom seh died of anal caner while I survived it. It is the most curable cancer there is per my Colon Rectal Specialist-one of the best in Florida.
    My heart goes out to her friends and family. Mary Tampa, FL

  55. #56 Laurie
    July 1, 2009

    Currently I am 4 years “cancer free” from anal cancer. I had surgery to remove the mass then mytomycin, chemo-radiation infusion via a continuous pump. There were 2 rounds of chemo each lasting 1 week and radiation to the area for 6 weeks. The lingering side effects to my body from the radiation and chemo continue but that is a small price to pay for being alive. My surgeon listened to me and removed the majority of the tumor but did not leave me w/a colostomy. When I heard Farrah’s story it made me realize again how lucky I was. I also want to commend the health care system with choices & alternatives. Yes, I am a patient of the HMO system, but it worked! I have been frustrated with the follow-up procedures because this rare form of cancer doesn’t spread in the usual ways but I am becoming even more proactive to determine and insist on the proper follow up. As the previous blogger stated, with all Farrah’s money. determination & stardom she couldn’t be saved. Surprisingly, I cried for her and myself when I heard she died. I hope we have all learned something & there is better documentation of cases and information access as time progresses. I hope Farrah & her family have some peace knowing they may have brought this cancer to the forfront and saved someone’s life.

  56. #57 Cherryl
    August 31, 2009

    fyi..anal cancer is a gastrointestinal cancer NOT a colon-rectal cancer. The cell type cancer is called Squamous cell carcinomas. And just for the person who said “Deviant actions deserve horrible and painful consequences” – are you kidding me? You should think before you say anything so stupid. Just because you can increase your risk by certain factors does NOT indicate that everyone with the disease did those things. I do not have HPV, HIV, or practice anal sex, but I was diagnosed with invasive stage 2 anal cancer in April ’09. I have my first follow-up PET scan on Friday and am about to schedule my first biopsy. I would not wish any form of cancer on anyone and certainly would not condem anyone who happens to be stricken with cancer. Thanks for the pertinent information as I was curious about FF and her cancer. I wonder what stage she was when first diagnosed? They stated that she went through the conventional treatment – it took me 10 weeks to complete the 6.5 week treatment plan. Though it is not considered hereditary my father was diagnosed with stage 1 anal cancer 2 weeks after I was diagnosed. I saw my OB-GYN, PCP, Gastro, etc… and no one looked at it until my husband finally insisted I see his colon rectal doctor. Don’t just assume you have an internal hemmroid like I did for 6 months.

  57. #58 tomia
    February 12, 2010

    I stumbled onto this website while searching info on how Farrah with all her wealth and access to the best doctors in the world ended up in such a terrible mess. How did she go from being told she was “cancer free” and 3 months later practically given a death sentence of “stage IV cancer that had spread to her liver? Did she not have any indications that something was wrong between being told she was cancer free and 3 months later given a terminal prognosis? Wouldn’t she have been ill since the liver was shot and full of tumors? My Mom had colon cancer and had a colostomy bad and it was awful. She lived about a year and a half but she had a stroke also but of course, we lived in Oklahoma, not the mecca for the best surgeons. I just was curious how from “cancer free” in 3 months you are at deaths door–I mean she put up a valiant fight, tried everything, her veins had collapsed, it was hard to watch that special and that has been months ago and it still haunts me. Any answers to how it spread so quickly or were they wrong in telling her she was cancer free? I remember she was rather a health nut at one time. She always swam, played tennis, jogged, golfed, and I rememeber Ryan O’Neal saying she wouldn’t even drink a diet sodaa because of the chemicals in it.

  58. #59 whcduan@aol.com
    November 16, 2011

    agree no money can suffice the dx. but hope can make you stronger. this beast is not destiny..it is what it is. pray for the world..one day everyone will be treated regardless what monetary, color or where ever they may come from. everyone desreves life…do what it takes to change the world. it does matter…i matter today. so do you, whoever is reading this message…
    peace

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