'General Hospital's' Finola Hughes talks show's success, character's cancer diagnosis

“General Hospital” star Finola Hughes has been playing Anna Devane on the series since 1985, and she said the fact that audiences routinely tune in for the soap opera shows the series is doing something right.

“I would say why the show is so strong is that we have fantastic characters that people like to tune into everyday," she told Fox News. "We are in their houses everyday and people really go on a journey with us."

Hughes think soap operas offer a unique experience for viewers because of the range of characters portrayed.

"I think that is why a soap opera [works] because everybody identifies with the characters and their challenges day to day they kind of go on these journeys," she said. "Also people who have been fans of the show a long time have kind of grown up watching us. There is that kind of familiarity.”

Recently, Hughes' character was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called polycythemia vera.

“We are coinciding it leading up to rare disease day which is February 28th," she explained of the plotline. "We are trying to bring awareness to this very rare blood cancer."

Hughes said “General Hospital” and other medical dramas have the ability to spreading awareness.

“‘General Hospital’  along with other shows such as ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘House’ has always been a place where we can deal with social issues and certainly with illness or things that families face on a day to day basis,” she said. “It is a kind of perfect platform to place this story. Anna is a strong woman, she is a strong woman and kind of the perfect person to be dealing with this chronic disease — something she is going to have to face on a daily basis.”

Hughes said she did her research ahead of her character's life change. She met with a woman suffering from polycythemia vera to better understand the disease.

“As an actor all you can do is try to portray and resonate with the audience the best you can," she said. "You do your homework and then you just have to let it go and hopefully with the writing — we have wonderful writers on the show — and hopefully we try to hit a note with the audience.”