Ben Stiller reveals that he was treated for prostate cancer two years ago


Ben Stiller appeared on Howard Stern’s show yesterday with his surgeon to promote prostate cancer awareness. Two years ago, Ben was diagnosed with prostate cancer, resulting in having his prostate removed. Ben was diagnosed after increasing numbers* from successive Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) tests led to an MRI and eventually a biopsy. The American Cancer Society recommends PSAs starting at the age of 50 but Ben’s doctor began administering them to Ben when he was 46. He was diagnosed at age 48.

*Thanks to aPathologist for the correction

Ben Stiller says he survived deadly prostate cancer two years ago because of early detection – and now he wants to spread the word about getting tested.

The 50-year-old actor said in an interview on The Howard Stern Show Tuesday morning that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 48.

“It came out of the blue for me,” Stiller said. “I had no idea.”

Although Stiller says he had no history of prostate cancer in his family and had no symptoms, his doctor suspected the cancer due to a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test, a simple blood test he received during his annual physical.

“If I hadn’t gotten the test, my doctor started giving it to me at 46, I still wouldn’t know,” he said.

Stiller added, “I wanted to talk about it because of the test, because I feel like the test saved my life.”

Once the diagnosis was made, Stiller had to wait six week for his body to heal from the biopsy to have surgery to remove his prostate.

“I was diagnosed on Friday the 13th, then I had until August 23rd to get ready for the surgery. So I just had the summer to hang out and think about it,” he said.

[From People]

Prostate cancer is the second deadliest cancer in men, right behind lung cancer. You can read Ben’s essay on his cancer and treatments here. In addition to his experience, shared with a touch of humor, he adds information and links about prostate cancer and PSA tests. He also writes that he is two-years cancer free.

Why bring it up after two years of keeping it to himself? Much like the discussion on mammograms, the PSA test has come under scrutiny for finding lesser, low-risk cancers that can lead to “over-treatment” like radiation which can prove harmful to the patient. Ben is speaking out very much in favor of PSAs and early detection, claiming his cancer would have gone undetected until too late. I’ve discussed this with family members in the medical profession. There are valid arguments on both sides. However, we lost my father in law to prostate cancer a decade ago. He had three grandchildren due that year, one from each of his children, and died two weeks before the first one was born. As I am not a trained physician, I guess my heart is winning out in this one so I would probably advocate for the test.

Ben filming with Dustin Hoffman in Yeh Din Ka Kissa



Photo credit: WENN and Fame/Flynet Photos

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22 Responses to “Ben Stiller reveals that he was treated for prostate cancer two years ago”

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  1. Lora says:

    Good for talking about it and also I’m glad he’s cancer free now

  2. Abby says:

    Aw, I’m glad that he’s cancer free. Maybe by him talking, someone else will get that test and it’ll save his life.

    • Esmom says:

      Yes and yes.

      I love the family photo, they seem lovely.

    • naomipaige says:

      I agree. Let’s hope people will get on it, and help save their lives. I’ve had it done a few times, and one of the first times, the Dr. was able to tell that my appendix was about to rupture. I’m still not exactly sure how, but it was amazing.

  3. sensible says:

    I lost my father 15 months ago to treatment of prostate cancer. I refuse to say he died of actual prostate cancer, because he didn’t. He would have categorically lived longer had he not had the useless invasive procedures imposed on him. He would have lived longer had the urologists and oncologists and radiographers had the decency and courtesy to fully explain outcomes and side effects as requested . I won’t go into the details of the story, but in the end, a beautiful 73 year old family man who never hurt a flea, died of heart failure because not one physician bothered to look at his medical history and see he had a heart valve replacement and that the chemo would cause his heart to fail.

    If he had never had a heightened PSA, which led to a biopsy, which led to cancer cells being released into his blood stream, which led to rapid cancer growth in ribs etc which led to chemo……We would still have an old man with a slow growing cancer with us having quality of life today. I haven’t even mentioned the pain he lived with from the radiation inflaming his sciatic nerve. That was a living hell.

    As you can see, right now, oncologists and their ilk can kiss my arse.

    • Jayna says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Ben and his doctor talked about that, the problem of some doctors overtreating or pushing procedures after a PSA has higher levels than normal. They said that depending on if it’s a slow-growing rating and also depending on the age and the health problems of the patient , you might do nothing at all, and for many that’s the case. Just keep an eye on it with follow-up PSAs. That was
      how an elderly neighbor of mine was treated. Ben’s was treatable but a mid range aggressive prostate cancer and he was young and healthy. Because of this, after many consultations with surgeons, he chose the specific surgeon he did. But every one of them recommended surgery due to his type cancer.

    • amadabasura says:

      Ben Stiller received a standard of care that is not available to the rest of us. When he is discussing his diagnosis and treatment he is talking about something entirely different from what any of us or our loved ones are going to experience in a similar situation. Healthcare systems don’t profit from these screening tests, they profit from investigative procedures and treatments that are generated by these screenings. Sure, the facts show that screening for colon, breast, and prostate cancers do not ultimately save lives but the medical-industrial complex knows patients make healthcare decisions based on emotions, not logic.

    • S says:

      Very sorry for your loss due to complications from chemo, but I must say emphatically and categorically that biopsies do not cause spread of cancer. His cancer was metastatic but not due to the biopsy.

    • Jaded says:

      My sympathies on the loss of your dear father, but I have to agree with other comments – biopsies do not cause cancers to metastasize, it’s the type of cancer that had already gone metastatic. I am currently facing breast cancer (diagnosed during Breast Cancer Awareness Month – how ironic) and had I not had a biopsy, it could have been mistaken for a benign cyst, of which I have had many. Mammograms and ultrasounds can’t detect or identify many types of cancer, which is necessary so the surgeon can figure out the best treatment. Just automatically doing a lumpectomy on everything is not the way to handle mystery breast lumps, nor is not treating prostate cancer which is one of the most deadly if not caught and treated immediately.

  4. Elia says:

    My Dad had his prostate removed after being diagnosed almost 10 years ago and is happy and healthy now. It still shocks me how many men who (after I tell them about my dad) do the “I don’t want someone putting their finger’s up there” when a minute of discomfort can literally save their life.

    • I Choose Me says:

      Right? My husband has the same argument. So frustrating.

    • byland says:

      My Dad regales me with the story of his exam every year. While we’re at dinner. In public.

    • amilu says:

      My dad is also (relatively) happy and healthy now after being treated for prostate cancer 2 years ago. He’s the sort who goes to the doctor for every. little. thing. But that allowed them to detect it early and eradicate it.

  5. I Choose Me says:

    Glad he’s cancer free and yes, early detection is key. Good on him for spreading awareness. I’ve been trying to get my stubborn ass husband who turned forty seven this September to go get his prostate checked. But he refuses. Sigh.

  6. naomipaige says:

    I’m happy he’s cancer free. I think it might have helped his recovery by just keeping it between his family.

  7. aPathologist says:

    Just a minor correction: the Gleason grading system is a scale that Pathologists use to grade prostate cancer that is seen on biopsy or excision. The current scale goes from 6-10. 6 is the lowest grade (least aggressive) and 10 is the the highest grade (most aggressive). Grades 1-5 have been dropped from the current scoring system. PSA (prostate specific antigen) is a blood test that clinicians use to assess a patient’s risk for prostate cancer. If a patient has an elevated PSA, they might undergo a prostate biopsy. If that biopsy has cancer, the pathologist will assign it a Gleason score.

    Sorry to be pedantic.

    • Hecate says:

      Please don’t be sorry, I appreciate the clarification. I, obviously, got in over my head researching the terms et al. (You would have had a field day with my wrestling with the procedure – he does discuss it in his essay, though, if anyone is interested)

      Thanks for the explanation.

  8. sherry says:

    My husband was just diagnosed with prostate cancer about 4 weeks ago. It’s the slow-growing kind and at first they thought it was just on one side. However, after the MRI, they saw another spot and did a second biopsy. Cancer is on both sides of the prostate. He’s looking at different options now.

    One thing his doctor/surgeon told us is that his age is a consideration on whether or not to treat it. In someone who is in their 70’s and 80’s, they tend to just watch it. With someone who is in their 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s, they will be more aggressive with treatment/surgery.

    My husband is adamant he will not have a full prostatectomy. I pointed out to him, “You mean if it’s removing your prostate or death, you’ll choose death?” I think he’s more worried about the potential side effects of surgery than actually dying.

    • RuddyZooKeeper says:

      My friend (a physician in his 50s) was diagnosed about 5 years ago and he explained treatment plans the opposite of what you’re saying. The younger you are, the more conservative the treatment of the cancer is not especially aggressive or late stage. The side effects of treatment can be devastating to a man — like loss of sexual function and incontinence. So yeah, for my friend who lived an active life with a partner he loved to have sex with … he made a choice based on his priorities and the risks he was willing to take. And he gets his PSAs checked regularly.
      You may want to discuss with your husband what his priorities are as a couple. His head might be spinning right now with all these choices and he may be thinking he does not want to live the next 30 years if it means he can’t have sex with you anymore. Not being snarky, it’s just that sexual and urological function is a huge deal and a big part of why men refuse early treatment.

  9. Whitney says:

    My dad told my sister and me last night he has prostate cancer! His Gleason score is a 7. He is 65 and is waiting to see where his levels are in a few months. I am advocating removal of the prostate because it scares me. He and his doctors are weighing the pros and cons of surgery. Like a previous poster said, treatment can be more detrimental.

    • mander says:

      Hi Whitney,
      My husband is 64. He had prostate cancer with a Gleason score of 7. He had his prostate removed about 6 months ago. He is cancer free, and has no/little side effects. The surgery itself was pretty easy for him. Just wanted to put it out there.

    • Agnes's Mom says:

      Hi, my husband had a biopsy in May, and robotic prostrate removal in June. He too had a Gleason score of 7. He is 51, and next week will finish radiation treatments. Due to the PSA test, his cancer was caught early, and he is expected to make a full recovery. The radiation hasn’t been too bad on him, mild skin irritation and some nausea. Please consider the surgery and please don’t let him wait too long. In between biopsy and surgery, the tumor continued to grow and become more aggressive. Best of luck to you and your family.