The actor says he was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer years ago and has since had surgery to treat it.
On Tuesday, Ben Stiller spoke publicly for the first time about being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014.
Stiller was joined on the show by his surgeon, who discussed the controversial screening method which led to Stiller’s diagnosis.
Rob Kim / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com
Quick refresher: The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located under the bladder that helps produce semen.
The gland’s function is to produce seminal fluid, which helps nourish and transport sperm as it leaves the body through ejaculation. It tends to cause more issues (especially with urination), as men age, and it’s checked during a routine digital rectal exam, where a finger or instrument is inserted in the anus to feel for abnormalities.
Prostate cancer is common — about 1 in 6 men will get it, according to the American Cancer Society. Its cause is well known (while some types of cancer are caused by quite specific factors, read: Mesothelioma Explained).
Kocakayaali / Getty Images
Stiller wrote that when he was 46, his doctor gave him a “baseline PSA test,” which is sometimes given to average or low-risk individuals.
The PSA test measures levels of prostate-specific antigen; anything over level 4 is suspicious, Dr. Robert Segal, medical testing expert and co-founder of LabFinder.com, told BuzzFeed Health. It’s a screening tool to determine prostate cancer risk, not detect the cancer itself. After an abnormal PSA test, you’d usually go to a urologist, said Segal, who follows up with a rectal exam and MRI before they decide if you need a biopsy.
“It’s sensitive but not specific, meaning it detects a high PSA but we don’t know if that’s from a fatal cancer, a low-grade cancer, or even just a benign inflammation or infection in the prostate,” Dr. Harry Fisch, clinical professor at Weill Cornell School of Medicine, told BuzzFeed Health.
“The PSA test saved my life,” Stiller wrote.
After that initial test showing a high PSA, Stiller said his doctors monitored his PSA levels for two years until they eventually did an MRI and biopsy to screen for cancer.
The biopsy came back positive, Stiller wrote, showing he had “mid-range aggressive cancer.” Doctors recommended surgery to remove the tumor, and Stiller said he got the phone call that he was cancer-free in September 2014.
Michael Reaves / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com