Ben Stiller is more accustomed to making people laugh, but during an appearance on SiriusXM's "The Howard Stern Show" Tuesday he got deadly serious, revealing he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014.
"It came out of the blue for me," Stiller said on Stern of the surprise diagnosis. "I had no idea."
The star of such films as "Zoolander" and "Tropic Thunder," Stiller said the news left him reeling.
Stiller revealed on Stern he later had surgery to remove his prostate and now every six months is taking PSA test to make sure he stays cancer-free. Stiller posted an essay on Medium further detailing the experience, as he urged men to get early prostate cancer screening.
"I got diagnosed with prostate cancer Friday, June 13th, 2014. On September 17th of that year I got a test back telling me I was cancer free. The three months in between were a crazy roller coaster ride with which about 180,000 men a year in America can identify," Stiller writes.
"Right after I got the news, still trying to process the key words echoing dimly in my head (probability of survival–vival-vival-val…” “incontinence-nence-nence-ence…), 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.
Stiller wrote he was encouraged after seeing names he recognized, including Secretary of State John Kerry, former New York Yankees skipper Joe Torre and "Meet The Parents" co-star Robert De Niro were prostate cancer survivors.
"As I learned more about my disease (one of the key learnings is not to Google "people who died of prostate cancer” immediately after being diagnosed with prostate cancer), I was able to wrap my head around the fact that I was incredibly fortunate," Stiller writes. "Fortunate because my cancer was detected early enough to treat. And also because my internist gave me a test he didn’t have to."
The test Stiller is referring to is the Prostate-specific antigen test, or PSA. The test measures the amount of protein produced by cells of the prostate gland.
According to the National Cancer Institute "the blood level of PSA is often elevated in men with prostate cancer, and the PSA test was originally approved by the FDA in 1986 to monitor the progression of prostate cancer in men who had already been diagnosed with the disease."
In 1994, the FDA approved the use of the PSA test in conjunction with a digital rectal exam (DRE) to test asymptomatic men for prostate cancer.
"Taking the PSA test saved my life. Literally. That’s why I am writing this now," Stiller says. "There has been a lot of controversy over the test in the last few years. Articles and op-eds on whether it is safe, studies that seem to be interpreted in many different ways, and debates about whether men should take it all."
Stiller said he was not "offering a scientific point of view here, just a personal one, based on my experience. The bottom line for me: I was lucky enough to have a doctor who gave me what they call a "baseline" PSA test when I was about 46. I have no history of prostate cancer in my family and I am not in the high-risk group, being neither — to the best of my knowledge — of African or Scandinavian ancestry. I had no symptoms."