Marcia Cross credits her annual rectal exam with saving her life.
The “Desperate Housewives” star, 57, opened up with “CBS This Morning” Wednesday about her shocking anal cancer diagnosis a year and a half ago, which she recently discovered could be linked to her husband’s 2009 battle with throat cancer.
“I was so not thinking anything was wrong because I didn’t have any symptoms,” Cross recalled going into her regular gynecologist visit. “She gave me an exam and came around and said, ‘Well, I just want you to know, whatever it is it’s curable.’ It was like – ‘What?! What are you talking about?’ “
The doctor had found a cancerous mass in her anus.
Related: Marcia Cross spoke out about diagnosis to ‘put a dent in the stigma around anal cancer’
Doctors suspect that Cross’ anal cancer and husband Tom Mahoney’s throat cancer came from the same type of human papillomavirus, commonly called HPV, which can be transferred through sexual intercourse or skin-to-skin contact.
Fortunately, Cross and Mahoney are both in remission. They plan to have their 12-year-old twin daughters – Eden and Savannah – vaccinated for HPV in the coming weeks.
“My girls don’t know it, but they’re up for their first shot at the end of the school year,” Cross revealed.
Related: ‘Desperate Housewives’ star Marcia Cross is ‘happy to be alive’ after battling anal cancer
She hopes her story will raise awareness for early prevention against HPV and put an end to any embarrassment surrounding anal cancer.
“I know there are people who are ashamed. You have cancer! Do you have to then also feel ashamed? Like you did something bad, you know, because it took up residence in your anus?” she said. “I mean, come on, really. There’s enough on your plate.”
Cross herself struggled with saying “anal” freely.
“Even for me, it took a while. Anus, anus, anus!” she said with a laugh. “You just have to get used to it.”