Anal cancer can be a serious condition and the symptoms, which include changes in bowel habits, bleeding and pain, are not specific to anal cancer, making it difficult to catch in the early stages and almost impossible to prevent. An estimated 710 people (450 women and 260 men) will die of anal cancer in 2009, according to the ACS.
But treatment for anal cancer is often very effective, and most patients with this cancer can be cured. Fawcett's openness about her anal cancer, which included a documentary about her experience that aired in May, raised awareness about the disease.
"Her openness and honesty about this disease has probably helped to heal a lot of people. So she may have done a significant service by doing that," Brooks said. "You've got a woman who was known as a sex symbol who had a great deal of inner character and helped a great deal of other people."
ABC News' Joanna Schaffhausen contributed to this report.