'Desperate Housewives' actress Marcia Cross says HPV caused her anal cancer, husband’s throat cancer

Credit: Michael Kovac

Credit: Michael Kovac

First it was her husband. Then it was herself.

But actress Marcia Cross is determined it won’t be their daughters.

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The “Desperate Housewives” star is speaking out about the human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV.

Cross’ husband, actor Tom Mahoney, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2009, and Cross found out a year and a half ago she had anal cancer.

But she’s hoping to prevent the same fate for their 12-year-old twins.

“My girls don’t know it, but they’re up for their first shot at the end of the school year,” the actress told “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday.

That shot will likely be of the HPV vaccine Gardasil 9, which was previously recommended for ages 9-26 but was expanded in October 2018 to include ages 27-45. According to cancer.gov, Gardasil 9 is the only HPV vaccine available for use in the United States.

Cross said Wednesday that doctors suspect her and her husband’s cancers were caused by the same type of HPV.

About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. About 14 million people become infected each year. HPV is so common that almost every person who is sexually active will get HPV at some time in their life if they don't get the vaccine.

The CDC recommends all kids ages 11 or 12 get vaccinated, with catch-up vaccines for boys and men through age 21 and for girls and women through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger.

HPV vaccine is also recommended for the following people, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger:

  • young men who have sex with men, including young men who identify as gay or bisexual or who intend to have sex with men through age 26;
  • young adults who are transgender through age 26; and
  • young adults with certain immunocompromising conditions (including HIV) through age 26.

There is currently no test to find out your HPV status. There is also no test to find the virus in the mouth or throat. That’s likely why Cross was exposed to it by her husband.

The actress said she had no clue a routine visit to her gynecologist was going to end with a cancer diagnosis.

"I was so not thinking anything was wrong because I didn't have any symptoms, and she gave me an exam and came around and said, 'Well, I just want you to know, whatever it is it's curable,'" she said. "It was like 'What? What are you talking about?'"

Cross said she’s also speaking out about her anal cancer in order to destigmatize it.

"I know that there are people who are ashamed," she told "CBS This Morning." "You have cancer. Should you then also feel like ashamed like you did something bad because it took up residence in your anus? I mean, come on, really? There's enough on your plate."

Cross said she and Mahoney are both in remission.

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