Marcia Cross has been diagnosed with anal cancer almost two years ago, but the Hollywood actress refuses to let the disease get her down.

The former Desperate Housewives star recently told reporters about her illness and her ongoing treatment. She said gave the good news that her anal cancer is currently in remission.

Cross said her malignancy may also be linked to her husband's throat cancer that was diagnosed back in 2009. Both illnesses are associated with human papillomavirus, which is a sexually transmitted disease.

Discovering Her Anal Cancer

In an interview with People magazine, Cross shared about her battle with cancer and how her struggle helped changed her life. She had to undergo three months of what she called "gnarly" treatment, which forced her to find a new normal.

The 57-year-old actress, who was a self-confessed "introverted extrovert", began by reaching out to her followers on Instagram, asking for advice on how to deal with hair loss from cancer treatment. She later opened up about her illness.

"I want to help put a dent in the stigma around anal cancer," Cross told People. "I've read a lot of cancer-survivor stories, and many people, women especially, were too embarrassed to say what kind of cancer they had. There is a lot of shame about it. I want that to stop."

Cross found out about her illness in 2017, while she was having her annual checkup with her gynecologist. After undergoing an initial digital rectal exam, she was later sent to a colon and rectal surgeon for further diagnosis.

The actress had to go through two biopsies before her doctors could confirm that she indeed had anal cancer. She was then scheduled for six weeks of radiation treatment and chemotherapy.

She explained that her doctors did not recommend surgery, which she thought was a relief. She said it was important to preserve her sphincter muscles as much as possible. Having found a new appreciation for the anus, she claims she is now a big fan of that part of the body.

Finding Humor In Her Struggles

Following her diagnosis, Cross researched cancer treatment and discovered how difficult it would be. This is why she made it a point to look for the humor in everything that she was going through.

"In the beginning, I just sort of lay down for the parting of the cheeks and I would float away," she said in laughter. "Because what are you going to do?"

Cross shared that after going through cancer treatment for nearly a year, the doctor told her that her illness is now in remission, with only a small chance of a recurrence. She said she was grateful that everything is working properly.

Now, every time the actress goes to her bathroom, she feels amazed and appreciative of her body.

Cross also talked about her husband, Tom Mahoney, who himself was diagnosed with throat cancer about 10 years earlier. She found out that both their malignancies are linked to HPV.

This inspired her to push people to learn more about the vaccine for the STD, which could help prevent the development of the disease.

Cross has now taken it upon herself to help others be aware of anal cancer symptoms, such as itching, lumps, pain, and anal bleeding so that they could discuss their concerns with doctors.

She said if something does not feel right, people should listen to their body and consult their doctor. They should not ignore what they feel, especially since anal cancer is curable when detected early just like in her own case.

The actress added that the Anal Cancer Foundation is an excellent resource of information for people who have been diagnosed with the disease. She said she herself turns to the organization often.

What Is Anal Cancer?

Anal cancer is a malignancy in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the anus, according to the National Cancer Institute. The anus is found at the end of the large intestine, just below the rectum. This is where solid waste, or stool, exits the body.

There are several risk factors associated with the development of anal cancer:

  • Being infected with human papillomavirus.
  • Having many sexual partners.
  • Having receptive anal sex.
  • Being older than 50 years.
  • Frequent anal redness, swelling, and soreness.
  • Having fistulas, or abnormal openings, in the anus.
  • Smoking cigarettes.

People who have the malignancy may experience the following signs and symptoms of the disease:

  • Bleeding from the anus.
  • Pain or pressure in the area around the anus.
  • Itching or discharge from the anus.
  • Having a lump near the anus.
  • Experiencing a change in bowel habits.

Those who suffer from these conditions should consult their doctor for further testing.

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