Actor-director Ben Stiller revealed he was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago and underwent surgery to be treated for the disease in an interview with Howard Stern on Tuesday.
The 50-year-old Meet the Parents star told Stern he was diagnosed with an “intermediately aggressive” form of the illness in 2014, when he was 48 years old, and that the news had come “out of the blue.”
Stiller appeared on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM radio show alongside his surgeon, Dr. Edward Schaeffer, who had conducted a “robotic assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy” to successfully remove the actor’s tumor. Stiller said that if he hadn’t been receiving a regular test called a PSA test to screen for the deadly cancer, he may never have caught it in time.
Stiller followed up his appearance on Howard Stern’s show with an essay posted to Medium about his experience.
“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,” Stiller wrote. “The three months in between were a crazy roller coaster ride with which about 180,000 men a year in America can identify.”
“Taking the PSA test saved my life. Literally. That’s why I am writing this now. 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. I am 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.”
The actor praised the “thoughtful” internist who conducted PSA tests on him, avoiding guidelines set forth by by the American Cancer Society to wait until age 50 to conduct them. The actor wrote that critics of the test contend that, “depending on how they interpret the data, doctors can send patients for further tests like the MRI and the more invasive biopsy, when not needed.”
“But 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?” Stiller wrote.
Stiller concluded by revealing that he has now been cancer-free for two years. The actor and filmmaker has a number of projects coming up, both in front of and behind the camera, including a starring role opposite Adam Sandler and Dustin Hoffman in Noah Baumbach’s next movie and as a producer on Dodgeball 2 and Jack Black comedy The Polka King.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum