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Your Family Now: Iowa woman aims to raise awareness about anal cancer

Posted: 11:17 PM, Jun 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-17 15:39:02-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Many people are devastated when they learn they have cancer. It's not something they choose, and they don't get to pick which part of the body is affected. Lorraine Houston is open about the fact she was diagnosed with anal cancer because she says by addressing changes in her body, she was able to get help and possibly save her life.

She's all too familiar with cancer. "My family has been through a lot with cancer, I lost three brothers to cancer, and another one."

When a doctor revealed her diagnosis she was willing to do whatever it took. She first had radiation and chemotherapy but the cancer quickly came back and a more aggressive treatment was needed.

"That required a combination of treatment, first radiation, followed by extensive surgery, removing the rectum," said Dr. Nagi Ayoub, a plastic surgeon with CHI Health and Westfield Plastic Surgery Center in Omaha.

"A lot of people are thinking, oh my, you're going to have a permanent colostomy. Living with a permanent colostomy means you get to live," Houston said.

"In her particular case we use xenograph (tissue from another species), and then muscle from her own body to revascularize the area or give circulation to the area again," Dr. Ayoub said.

She's also spent sessions in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber at CHI Health CUMC-Bergan Mercy. It increases oxygen in the body's blood supply to improve circulation in an area that's already been exposed to radiation.

Houston invites others to speak up if they feel changes in their body because when it comes to seeking answers about your health, there's no time to waste. "I can't go backwards, I can only go forward, and if that means talking about and getting other people to be open and talking about it, that's a good thing."

Houston doesn't know what led to her cancer. The Anal Cancer Foundation does recommend people get the HPV vaccine because they have seen a link between some cases of anal cancer and HPV.