- Nearly half a year after revealing she has anal cancer, Marcia Cross is opening up about her diagnosis in an effort to end the stigma surrounding the disease.
- Cross says “There is a lot of shame about it. I want that to stop.”
- Learn what anal cancer is and how to spot the symptoms.
It’s been roughly half a year since former Desperate Housewives star Marcia Cross revealed she had anal cancer-one of the more uncommon types of cancer. The actress, who recently celebrated her 57th birthday, first shared she was battling anal cancer in an Instagram post on September 15, 2018, explaining that she suffered hair loss as a result of the illness.
But Cross hopes that sharing her story will encourage others to see their doctor if they experience symptoms and not be ashamed about having the disease. “I want to help put a dent in the stigma around anal cancer,” Cross told People in a recent interview. “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.”
In the interview, Cross also shared that she learned about her cancer diagnosis during an annual gynecologist checkup in November 2017. Her doctor had ordered a digital rectal exam and sent Cross to see a colon and rectal surgeon. After two biopsies, she learned she had anal cancer and underwent six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy.
“Surgery wasn’t recommended, which was a relief,” Cross said. “You want to preserve sphincter muscles if possible. Having woken up to its importance, I am now a big fan of the anus!”
Fortunately, Cross’s treatment worked and she has been in remission for almost a year now, with a low chance of recurrence. But she wants people to be aware of the disease and its symptoms. “If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body and talk to your doctor,” Cross said. “Don’t let it go. It’s a very curable cancer if caught early, which mine was.”
Here’s everything you need to know about anal cancer and its symptoms.
What is anal cancer, exactly?
According to the American Cancer Society anal cancer is, well, pretty much just how it sounds. Anal cancer starts in the anus, the opening at the lower end of the intestines, where the end of the intestines connect to the outside of the body. It more commonly occurs in women, usually those over the age of 60. Those who are at increased risk include people infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) or HIV, smokers, and individuals with lower immunity.
Symptoms of anal cancer
In some cases there are no symptoms of anal cancer, but minor bleeding-often mistaken for hemorrhoids-is usually the first sign of the disease. However, aside from rectal bleeding there are several other symptoms that can occur.
According to the American Cancer Society, symptoms can include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Rectal itching
- A lump or mass at the anal opening
- Pain or a feeling of fullness in the anal area
- Narrowing of stool or other changes in bowel movements
- Abnormal discharge from the anus
- Swollen lymph nodes in the anal or groin areas
It’s important to note that oftentimes these symptoms are more likely to be caused by benign, non-cancerous conditions such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or anal warts. So don’t freak out if you are experience one or more of them. However, if you do have any of them it’s critical to get checked out by your physician - the sooner the cause is detected, the more efficiently it can be treated. And as with most cancers, if detected in the earlier stages, the survival rate is significantly higher.
Cross isn’t the only celebrity who has battled the rare cancer. In 2009, Charlie’s Angels star Farrah Fawcett lost her battle with anal cancer.
While it may have been uncomfortable for Cross to open up about her health struggles she is now helping raise awareness for a health condition that isn’t talked about enough-and we thank her for that!
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