While appearing on Tuesday's Howard Stern show, many may've expected Ben Stiller to discuss upcoming projects. Instead, the 50-year-old Hollywood actor revealed that he had been diagnosed with "immediately aggressive" prostate cancer in 2014.
Fortunately, Stiller has now fully recovered, but the news two years ago has understandably left a lasting impact. Shortly after appearing on the chat show — where he was joined by his surgeon Dr. Edward Schaeffer — Stiller released a blog post, delving into the distressing experience and using his platform to encourage early testing for the disease.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, after skin cancer, with over 180,000 new cases in 2016 alone, according to The American Cancer Society. Discussing the moment in June 2014 when he was told he had the disease, he wrote:
"As my new, world-altering doctor spoke about cell cores and Gleason scores, probabilities of survival, incontinence and impotence, why surgery would be good and what kind would make the most sense, his voice literally faded out like every movie or TV show about a guy being told he had cancer… a classic Walter White moment, except I was me, and no one was filming anything at all."
A "Really Scary" Experience
Crucially his doctor had performed a PSA test (measuring the levels of prostate-specific antigen in the patient's blood) when he was aged 46, despite the recommended age for testing being four years older.
Prior to surgery, Stiller admitted to making an error by searching online for information on others who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, explaining on his blog that "one of the key learnings is not to Google 'people who died of prostate cancer' immediately after being diagnosed with prostate cancer."
However, that search did reveal that his Meet the Parents (2000) co-star Robert De Niro had also suffered from the disease. As well as reaching out to the actor, he discussed his health with De Niro's physician in order to assess all of his options.
Prior to treatment, which he found "really scary", he told his children, aged 12 and nine at the time, that he was "going through something" but didn't reveal that he had cancer.
Due to his early diagnosis, the "robotic assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy" performed by Schaeffer was a success. Highlighting the disturbing reality that could have been if he waited until the recommended age to be tested, he added:
"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."
The actor has now been cancer-free for two years, although he still has the PSA test every six months. Following the ordeal, Stiller said he now appreciates life "100 per cent" more.
Stiller is one of Hollywood's most decorated actors and directors, appearing in hit comedy films such as There's Something About Mary (1998), The Meet the Parents trilogy, Night at the Museum trilogy, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) and the cult classic comedy, Zoolander (2001).
(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)