Ben Stiller Wants to Use Cancer Diagnosis as Conversation Starter About Early Detection
Stiller revealed to Stern that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago and credits an early detection test called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) for saving his life. Stiller was diagnosed with cancer on June 13, 2014, and was cancer-free three months later.
“If I hadn’t gotten the test—my doctor started giving it to me at 46—I still wouldn’t know,” the 50-year-old actor said on Oct. 4. “I wanted to talk about it because of the test, because I feel like the test saved my life.”
The PSA test is a blood test used to screen for prostate cancer by measuring the amount of prostate-specific antigen in one’s blood. Elevated levels of the antigen could indicate the presence of prostate cancer. Stiller said he was shocked to learn about his diagnosis, given that prostate cancer isn’t part of his family history.
“It came out of the blue for me. I had no idea,” Stiller told Stern. “At first, I didn’t know what was gonna happen. I was scared. It just stopped everything in your life because you can’t plan for a movie because you don’t know what’s gonna happen.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in men, affecting African-American men at higher rates than white men.
Stiller also penned an essay, titled “The Prostate Cancer Test That Saved My Life” for Medium, where he detailed his cancer experience and urged others to be proactive when dealing with their health.
“If he 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,” he wrote. “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.”
The actor said the test is often criticized because it can lead to unnecessary “over-treatment” of those with low-risk cancers, but countered that men should be given the option for the test so they stand a chance at life due to early detection.