Ben Stiller, one of Hollywood’s leading comedians, had a not-so-funny brush with aggressive prostate cancer two years ago and talked about it today on Howard Stern. He revealed secret surgery to have the gland removed. He’s now cancer free, he says.
Stiller’s treatment option is one of the most extreme. Different types of treatment are available for the disease, depending on the age of the individual and the aggressiveness of the cancer, according to medical references.
Stiller, 50, told Stern he was diagnosed with “immediate aggressive” form of cancer in June two years ago. He underwent surgery two months later and was found to be cancer free in September a yea ago.
“It came out of the blue for me,” Stiller said. “I had no idea.”
While cancer can strike at any age, prostate cancer is typically associated with older people, typically over the age of 50. Stiller said he’d had a tumor on his prostate for at least five years.
Prostate cancer is typically found through a “prostate specific antigen (PSA)” test or digital rectal exam (DRE), according to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Doctors may order more tests to make a definitive diagnosis, including a biopsy to remove a small piece of the gland for examination under a microscope.
If cancer is present, doctors will grade it using a “Gleason” score on a one-to-ten scale. The score indicates how likely it is to spread, according to the CDC.
The greatest risk factor is age, which makes Stiller’s case unusual. Other risk factors include family history and ethnicity. African-American men are more prone to the disease, according to medical references.
Stiller first tipped about his experience with the disease on Twitter.
‘So, I had cancer a couple of years ago and I wanted to talk about it. And the test that saved my life,” he wrote.
After being diagnosed, he said he began researching the disease and discovered that other celebrity survivors included John Kerry, Jon Torre, Mandy Matinkin and Robert DeNiro.
“I was able to wrap my head around the fact that I was incredibly fortunate,” he wrote. “Fortunate because my cancer was detected early enough to treat. And also because my internist gave me a test he didn’t have to.”
“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. 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. If [his doctor] 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.”
Stiller had his first PSA test when he was 46.
Disease symptoms can vary widely from no symptoms all to such things as difficulty urinating, weak urine stream, frequent peeing at night, blood in urine and pain during urination, during ejaculation or pain in the back, hips or pelvis, according to the American Cancer Society.
Treatment for the disease is determined by the aggressiveness of the cancer, the age of the individual and when it was discovered.
As in Stiller’s case, treatment can range from surgery to such things as radiation therapy, hormone therapy, freezing parts of the prostate to kill cancer cells, or chemotherapy.
While the PSA test isn’t foolproof, Still says it’s worth having it done even before men hit age 50.
“It is a simple, painless blood test. It is not dangerous in itself in any way,” he said.
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