Marcia Cross Advocates for Awareness About HPV-Linked Cancers
- Desperate Housewives actress Marcia Cross survived HPV-linked anal cancer back in 2018. Her husband, Tom Mahoney, is also a cancer survivor.
- In a previous interview, Cross spoke to SurvivorNet about why she decided to become an advocate: to stop the stigma surrounding anal cancer and spread awareness about HPV-linked cancer.
- HPV (which stands for human papillomavirus) can cause several different cancers. It causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer and is also linked to anal cancer, throat cancer, vaginal and vulvar cancer, and penile cancer.
- There is a vaccine available that can prevent most of these cancers.
Cross and her husband, Tom Mahoney, have actually both been through cancer, and the actress opened up about the experience in a previous interview with SurvivorNet. The Massachusetts native said her diagnosis, which came out of the blue, naturally created a great deal of anxiety and stress, and not just in her marriage — but with her two young daughters.Read More
“My husband … he’s a do-er, probably like most men,” Cross said. “He took care of those kids. He was fantastic. When I needed him, I would say, ‘I need you now.’ My husband had already been traumatized and then he was around me going through it, and it didn’t even occur to me until a doctor said, ‘You know, this might be bringing up a lot of feelings for your husband.’ I was like, ‘Oh!’ Because, of course all I was thinking about was myself!”
“We’re all people with pros and cons and weaknesses and strengths,” she added.
The Connection to HPV
HPV has been linked to several cancers, but most prominently to cervical cancer. In fact, experts say that the virus — which is transmitted sexually and extremely common in the United States — is responsible for 96% of cervical cancers and the leading cause of the disease in the country. Fortunately, the HPV vaccine can prevent these cancers.
In addition to cervical cancer, HPV has also been linked to:
- Anal cancer
- Vaginal and vulvar cancers
- Penile cancers
- Throat cancers
HPV can cause cancer in both men and women and both Cross’ anal cancer and Mahoney’s throat cancer diagnoses were linked to HPV, she said.
“The vast majority of humans in the U.S., both men and women, will eventually get infected with human papillomavirus,” Dr. Allen Ho, a head and neck surgeon at Cedars-Sinai, told SurvivorNet in a previous conversation.
“The important thing to know about HPV is that there are many different strains, and only a couple of them tend to be more cancer-inducing,” Dr. Ho explained. “Probably less than 1% of the population who get infected happen to have the cancer-causing virus that somehow their immune system fails to clear, and over 15 to 20 years [it] develops from a viral infection into a tumor, and a cancer.”
Since being treated for the disease, Cross has become dedicated to spreading awareness about both HPV and taking the stigma away from having anal cancer. She points out that many people around her age are unaware that HPV can lead to cancer — which may lead to people forgoing necessary screening. Take a cue from Cross and be sure to go in for a check-up with your doctor.
The HPV Vaccine
There has been some controversy around the HPV vaccine — mainly because doctors recommend it is given to young children, but there is a reason for that.
The original FDA approval of the Gardasil-9 HPV vaccine included young people ages 9 to 26, but it has since been expanded to include men and women ages 27 to 45. When given in two doses, spaced 6 to 12 months apart, the vaccine can prevent more than 90% of HPV- related cancers.
Kids as young as 9 can get Gardisil, and the earlier the better, Dr. Bobbie Rimel, a gynecologic oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told SurvivorNet in a previous chat.
“The immune system of children is very robust and their ability to create a long, lifelong immunity based on a vaccination is greater than in the adult body.”