Marcia Cross on Why She Spoke Out About Anal Cancer: 'People Were Suffering and Ashamed'

Now in remission from anal cancer for more than a year, Marcia Cross wants to continue raising cancer awareness.

The Desperate Housewives star, 57, hopes to educate others on risks and prevention of the HPV virus — which is thought to be the most common cause of anal cancer — through speaking at events and partnerships with non-profits such as the Anal Cancer Foundation.

Speaking at The Atlantic’s People v. Cancer event in New York City on Tuesday, Cross explained why she chose to be so transparent in sharing her treatment journey on social media.

“If I had breast cancer, you would’ve never heard from me … I just would’ve gone on with my life because you have plenty of people talking about it,” Cross said. “But I found myself in a position where nobody wants this job. Nobody wants to come forward. And I knew that people were suffering and people were ashamed.”

She adds, “In addition to that, I educated myself. I had to about the HPV virus. I realized there’s been a huge void of knowledge and education. So, that is the only reason I’m here.”

After her diagnosis in November 2017, Cross kept her treatments private until September 2018 when she finally decided to share her story publicly in an Instagram post asking for advice on hair loss management from cancer.

Though there’s a low chance of recurrence, the actress says she is “not taking [her body] for granted” and is paying more attention to fitness.

“I have to give [my body] a lot more attention in the sense that, I think partly, I’m just a little older and I also feel having been radiated I just have to stretch my hips and really do a lot of pilates and walk a lot,” Cross told PEOPLE.

One of the ways the Quantico star hopes to continue to raise awareness about anal cancer, particularly about the HPV virus, is by speaking in front of an audience and having the presentation be available online for other people to see.

“Now, I’m thinking of a TED Talk,” Cross said. “Then I would feel like I’ve done my part, and then I will hope that I get another great part in television or do a play or something.”

But even if she has to take matters into her own hands, she ultimately hopes that her journey and knowledge will be helpful for those searching for answers.

“I’ll do it myself and put it on just because I don’t want to do it piecemeal,” Cross told PEOPLE. “I really would like to just say, ‘Oh, if somebody is curious, here we go!’”

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