Ben Stiller Beats Prostate Cancer

Recently, funny man Ben Stiller had a more subdued message then he normally delivers. He wanted to share with other men that early detection saved his life from prostate cancer.

That early detection was the Prostate-Specific Antigen test (PSA) that his doctor recommended during a yearly physical exam in 2014.  At the time, Stiller was 48 years old, two years under the age of 50 recommended by the American Cancer Society of when men should begin PSA screenings.  In 2012, the United States Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) took an even stronger stance of advocating against urologists screening men for prostate cancer altogether using the PSA test.  The USPSTF reasoning has always been that the cost of implementing PSA as a screening tool and the potential harms of PSA outweighed the benefits.

The Zoolander star stated he wanted to talk about it as he strongly feels that because of the PSA test, it has saved his life and that if he hadn’t gotten it, things could have turned out much differently.

The PSA test is a simple test that measures the amount of prostate specific antigen present in the blood and is used to screen for prostate cancer.  PSA is a protein that men have in their blood which is released by the prostate gland.  In healthy men, the amount of PSA is low – generally less than 4.0 ng/ml.  However, as men age, their prostate can experience physiological or pathological changes which cause the PSA to rise.

Stiller said the diagnosis was a total shock to him as he has no family history of prostate cancer.  At the time of his diagnosis, he had a Gleason score of 7 categorized as “mid-range aggressive cancer.” Stiller chose to have a robotic assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy and has been cancer free ever since.  He gives credit to his doctor for advising him to start having his PSA level checked beginning at the age of 46. 

“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,” Stiller stated in a blog post.  “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.”

Studies have shown that waiting to screen a man’s PSA until the age of 50 or older can result in missing an early diagnosis in up to 11% of patients who have the disease.  When there is a delay in diagnosing prostate cancer, this only leads to an advanced stage of the disease when it finally is discovered where it may have already metastasized complicating treatment and the outcome.

The actor went on in his blog that he was asymptomatic and without the PSA test, his cancer could have spread and metastasized throughout his body reducing his chance of survival.  He also pointed out that there is growing evidence that the guidelines from the American Cancer Society and the USPSTF have led to increased cases of prostate cancer being detected at an advanced stage making it less likely for a man to beat it back.

Stiller sums it up best when he stated, “But in this imperfect world, I believe the best way to determine a course of action for the most treatable, yet deadly cancer, is to detect it early.”