Actor Ben Stiller says early detection of his prostate cancer saved his life.
The 50-year-old actor was on The Howard Stern Show when he revealed he was diagnosed with prostate cancer just two years ago. Stiller has no history of cancer in his family, but after some concerning test results during Stiller's annual physical. The test was a Prostate-Specific Antigen test (PSA), which is a simple blood test that measures the level of specific proteins produced by the prostate gland. The higher the PSA level, the more likely the man has cancer. Stiller's PSA levels were high, so his doctor continued to monitor them routinely.
"If I hadn't gotten the test, my doctor started giving it to me at 46, I still wouldn't know," Stiller said. "I wanted to talk about it because of the test, because I feel like the test saved my life."
Concerned about his increasing PSA level, Stiller's doctor performed a series of tests, including a biopsy and MRI, which confirmed his fears: Stiller indeed had prostate cancer.
"At first, I didn't know what was going to happen," Stiller told Howard Stern. "I was scared. The one thing that it does is it just stops everything in your life when you get diagnosed with cancer because you can't plan for a movie – you don't know what's going to happen."
Stiller had to wait six weeks after his biopsy to have his prostate removed, and in that time he reached out to his co-star and friend, Robert De Niro, who also battled prostate cancer. Unlike De Niro, Stiller chose to keep his diagnosis quiet.
After his surgery, Stiller was given another PSA test to make sure things were improving--they were.
Stiller says he is opening up about his experience because he wants to help others. The PSA test has been controversial, because it is dependent on how doctors interpret the data. It can also send patients for unnecessary surgeries and over-treatments for low-risk cancers. But Stiller is coming to the defense of the test that saved his life.
"Without this PSA test itself, or any screening procedure at all, how are doctors going to detect asymptomatic cases like mine, before the cancer has spread and metastasized throughout one's body rendering it incurable? Or what about the men who are most at risk, those of African ancestry, and men who have a history of prostate cancer in their family? Should we, as the USPSTF suggests, not screen them at all? This is a complicated issue, and an evolving one. But in this imperfect world, I believe the best way to determine a course of action for the most treatable, yet deadly cancer, is to detect it early."
We're glad that Stiller has beaten his cancer and that he is using his celebrity to raise awareness for this test and cancer prevention in general.
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