Ben Stiller Advocates Prostate Screening

Getting checked early saved him from a cancer death sentence, says actor

What’s a guy to do?

At a time when many men are being encouraged to essentially watch and wait rather than pursue aggressive treatment for prostate cancer that will never kill them — actor Ben Stiller is encouraging all men to get tested for the disease.

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Stiller on Tuesday revealed on “The Howard Stern Show” and in a tweet connected to a blog post that he was diagnosed with an “aggressive form” of the cancer two years ago — and secretly had surgery to remove his prostate.

The blog post, entitled “The Prostate Cancer Test That Saved My Life,” is the first time the actor, 50, has opened up about his battle with the disease.

“So, yeah, it’s cancer,” Stiller wrote. “My urologist segued from talking about how inconvenient it was picking his daughter up at school that morning to dropping a cancer diagnosis on me without missing a beat. Two weeks earlier, I didn’t even have an urologist.”

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Stiller said his doctors diagnosed him with “immediately aggressive” prostate cancer on June 13, 2014. By Sept. 17, after surgery to remove his prostate, he was told he was cancer-free.

Stiller is now encouraging other men to get tested, and to do so at an earlier age — a recommendation that right now is being questioned.

[lz_bulleted_list title=”Prostate Cancer in U.S.” source=””]30 million men are screened for prostate cancer each year|180,000 will be diagnosed annually|26,000 will die of the disease[/lz_bulleted_list]

“In general, prostate cancer is often detected by a blood test that measures prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and can detect prostate cancer at its earliest stages,” said Dr. Howard Sandler, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

“There is controversy in the medical community regarding who should be screened for prostate cancer with PSA tests. On the one hand, PSA can detect cancer early and that can be important for some individuals. But on the other hand, the test is not perfect and some people without cancer will have an abnormal test and go through potentially painful biopsy procedures plus anxiety regarding a possible cancer diagnosis,” Sandler told LifeZette.

Just a few short weeks ago, a major British study questioned the value of getting tested and pursuing aggressive treatment for early stage cases. Researchers found men with early stage prostate cancer who choose to closely monitor their disease were just as likely to survive at least 10 years as those who have surgery or radiation — and do so with far fewer side effects.

“If [my doctor] had followed the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines, I would have never gotten tested at all,” Stiller wrote.

“Early detection and early treatment can be important in some individuals,” said Sandler. “In my view, one should carefully weigh the risks of screening along with the benefits of treatment. For some individuals, a more cautious approach and perhaps less risky one might be helpful, and for others a more aggressive treatment approach would be appropriate.”

Still, he understands Stiller’s point of view. Typically, he said, those with the disease detected early and treated successfully — and with few if any side effects — are very supportive of screening.

“Taking the PSA test saved my life. Literally. That’s why I am writing this now,” Stiller wrote. He added that had he waited until he was 50 and followed the current recommendations, he wouldn’t have known for another year or two.

“What I had  —  and I’m healthy today because of it  —  was a thoughtful internist who felt like I was around the age to start checking my PSA level, and discussed it with me,” said Stiller.

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“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 U.S. 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 [it] successfully.”

About a dozen new medical tests are arriving on the market that aim to more accurately diagnose prostate cancer and go well beyond the standard PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood screenings used today, a new report on Tuesday outlined. “Several of them may even allow men to forego getting a biopsy that more than 1 million men diagnosed with prostate cancer undergo each year. That’s because these new tests will help doctors distinguish between aggressive disease and slow-growing tumors,” the Prostate Cancer Foundation reported.

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