Though best known for his ability to make audiences laugh, actor, writer and director Ben Stiller is hoping his latest effort will make people stop and think.
Stiller published an essay Tuesday morning revealing that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in June 2014. He was declared cancer-free in September of the same year.
"The three months in between were a crazy roller coaster ride with which about 180,000 men a year in America can identify," Stiller wrote of the time.
The publication of the essay was released in connection with Stiller's appearance on "The Howard Stern Show" where he first spoke of his diagnosis. He hopes to raise awareness of the threat of prostate cancer and also to advocate for early testing, something that Stiller credits with saving his life.
"Taking the PSA test saved my life. Literally. That's why I am writing this now," Stiller wrote.
The test that he refers to checks the prostate specific antigen value in the blood. In Stiller's case, his PSA value was checked by a doctor in 2012, when he was 46. When checked again in 2014, the value was raised and he was referred to a urologist, who upon further testing found Stiller's cancer.
The argument against mandatory PSA testing in the medical community stems from the fact that not all elevated PSA levels indicate cancer, meaning that some patients may be referred to unnecessary subsequent testing.
"But without this PSA test itself, or any screening procedure at all, how are doctors going to detect asymptomatic cases like mine, before the cancer has spread and metastasized throughout one's body rendering it incurable?" Stiller argued in his essay.
The American Cancer Society recommends that men have their PSA values checked beginning at age 50. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines advise not testing the values at all — though its website now notes that the organization is currently updating its recommendations.
It's Stiller's belief that all men over the age of 40 should be having open and honest discussions with their doctors about their options regarding proactive prostate care.
"This is a complicated issue, and an evolving one. 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," he wrote.