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Ben Stiller revealed on Tuesday’s Howard Stern Show that he was diagnosed with “intermediately aggressive” prostate cancer at the age of 48, two years ago, and had surgery to treat it.
Stiller, 50, who appeared on Stern’s SiriusXM show with his surgeon, Dr. Edward Schaeffer, opened up for the first time about his experience dealing with the disease and how he now urges people to talk with their doctors about getting tested at a younger age. After his appearance on Stern, Stiller posted an essay on Medium about his experience, with helpful links to learn more about prostate cancer and PSA screenings.
Stiller says his internist had been giving him a PSA test, a blood test for the prostate-specific antigen, for a couple of years prior to his diagnosis and was monitoring the results. As Stiller’s doctor saw his test numbers rise, he recommended that his patient visit a urologist. Stiller said he got an MRI and a biopsy and was told, sort of matter-of-factly, that he had cancer.
“It came out of the blue for me,” Stiller said on Stern of the diagnosis. “I had no idea.”
The actor-director then connected with Schaeffer after talking with “a bunch of different” doctors, including Robert De Niro’s physician.
While surgery was recommended for his “mid-range aggressive,” or “intermediately aggressive,” cancer, Stiller wanted to get a few opinions, but all of the doctors he talked to told him the tumor needed to be removed. Stiller had a “robotic assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy,” he writes, and Schaeffer got all of the cancer out.
Stiller said he’s now two years cancer-free and “extremely grateful” but keeps getting a PSA test every six months to make sure. Stiller and his doctor pointed out that he’s lucky because the cancer was caught early. The actor said he wanted to talk about his battle with prostate cancer on Howard Stern to encourage other people to get tested at an early age.
In his essay, Stiller writes in part, “Taking the PSA test saved my life. Literally. That’s why I am writing this now.” He explains that he’s grateful his internist started giving him a “baseline” PSA test when he was 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,” Stiller writes. “What I had? — ?and I’m healthy today because of it? — ?was a thoughtful internist who felt like I was around the age to start checking my PSA level, and discussed it with me. 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. 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’s tumor had been growing for years, he said on Howard Stern, and had he not had the PSA test, he wouldn’t have known he was sick.
During a more than 30-minute discussion on Stern, Stiller also opened up about how his experience affected him psychologically. He talked about the fear he felt prior to his surgery, saying even while he was being tested, pre-diagnosis, he was already “creating the whole movie in my head. I’m picturing the funeral.”
After he was diagnosed, he went online to look up other people who’ve had prostate cancer and saw that De Niro had dealt with it, so he called his Meet the Parents co-star.
Stiller said he was diagnosed on Friday, June 13, 2014, and had to wait two months to have the surgery. While he accepted that he was going to have the procedure, the actor-director said the morning of the surgery was “really scary.” He said he told his kids, who were 12 and 9 at the time, that he had “something [he] needed to deal with” and mentioned cancer but didn’t want to scare them.
Now he says he “100 percent” appreciates life more.
Stiller said he had just finished a Noah Baumbach movie with Adam Sandler in which he and Sandler play Dustin Hoffman’s sons and is now off to Montreal to do a new film.
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