By Christian Holub
March 27, 2019 at 03:29 PM EDT

After surviving a bout with anal cancer, Desperate Housewives and Melrose Place alum Marcia Cross is sharing her story in order to fight the “stigma” around the disease. Cross details her experience in an exclusive interview in the new issue of PEOPLE magazine.

“I want to help put a dent in the stigma around anal cancer,” Cross told PEOPLE. “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.”

Stand Up to Cancer 2016
Credit: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Cross first revealed her cancer diagnosis in a September Instagram post. At that point she was already “post cancer,” but she wanted advice for what to do with her shortened hair from chemotherapy. Later that month, she showed off the beanie and hair topper she was starting to use.

Cross told PEOPLE she was diagnosed the year prior to going public with the news, during her annual check-up with her gynecologist. After that, she underwent six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy.

“Surgery wasn’t recommended, which was a relief. You want to preserve sphincter muscles if possible,” Cross said. “Having woken up to its importance, I am now a big fan of the anus!”

Cross is now in remission, with a low chance of recurrence according to her doctor. Now she wants other people to be aware of the symptoms — which can include anal bleeding, pain, itching, and lumps — so that they can ask their doctor, should any problems arise.

“If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body and talk to your doctor,” says Cross. “Don’t let it go. It’s a very curable cancer if caught early, which mine was… If you or a loved one are diagnosed, the Anal Cancer Foundation is an amazing resource,” she adds. “And one I turned to often.”

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