Video: Ben Stiller Reveals He Was Diagnosed With Prostate Cancer in 2014
Ben Stiller revealed on The Howard Stern Show on Tuesday morning that he'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago, and that he was cancer-free after having his prostate removed.
As to why he'd decided to speak on the matter now, he said that he'd wanted to shed light on the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, which he believed was paramount to his recovery. "I wanted to talk about it because of the test," said Stiller. "I feel like the test saved my life." You can watch some of the interview here:
The test, as noted by Stiller, is a source of debate between some healthcare providers. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends against taking the PSA test—the agency says that the test may lead to "false-positives," or results that suggest a patient has prostate cancer, when in fact he does not. These false-positives may lead to biopsies, which can "cause harms such as fever, infection, bleeding, urinary problems, and pain." The agency adds that, "A small number of men will be hospitalized because of these complications."
Stiller's doctor, however, had recommended that he start taking the test in his mid-40s. This was important, he said, because there were no indications that he was at-risk for prostate cancer. No one in his family had had it, and at the time of his diagnosis—he was 48—he was considered young for a diagnosis. According to Cancer.org, the average age for a prostate cancer diagnosis is 66, and the American Cancer Society recommends PSA screenings for men 50 and over. So, all in all, Stiller was very fortunate to have detected his cancer so early. "I was really lucky, as I learned more about prostate cancer. I learned that I was someone with a case that could be treated," said Stiller. "There are a lot of people who can't [be treated], because they'd discovered it too late."
As explained by the National Cancer Institute, the PSA test measures the levels of prostate-specific antigen, a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. An elevated level of PSA may suggest the presence of prostate cancer. The test was approved by the FDA in 1986.
Stiller also wrote an article about his experience on Medium (it's got a nice headline picture from Something About Mary). In the article he spoke more about the importance of the PSA test:
If [my doctor] had waited, as the American Cancer Society recommends, until I was 50, I would not have known I had a growing tumor until two years after I got treated. If he had followed the US Preventive Services Task Force guidelines, I would have never gotten tested at all, and not have known I had cancer until it was way too late to treat successfully.
Stiller also described some of the shock he'd experienced when he'd first gotten the news:
I promptly got on my computer and Googled "Men who had prostate cancer." I had no idea what to do and needed to see some proof this was not the end of the world. John Kerry...Joe Torre...excellent, both still going strong. Mandy Patinkin...Robert DeNiro. They're vital. OK great. Feeling relatively optimistic, I then of course had to do one more search, going dark and quickly tapping in "died of" in place of "had" in the search window.
Ultimately, after a series of "not-fun-at-all" tests, as well as consultations for different opinions, it was decided that surgery would be the best course of action. He got the surgery to remove his prostate, and he was given a clean bill of health three months after the diagnosis. "As of this writing I am two years cancer free and extremely grateful," said Stiller.
You can hear more of the Stern interview here:
He also talks about what his sex life's been like after the ordeal (it's Howard Stern, after all). He says that, because his prostate's gone, he no longer produces ejaculate. But hey, he got an erection the first night after the surgery, and the sex has been very "satisfying":
If you're thinking about getting screened, or if you simply have questions about prostate cancer, check out the Prostate Cancer Foundation's website.