Ben Stiller's prostate cancer – What you need to know about the PSA test that saved actor's life!

According to Stiller, who is now cancer-free, it was the prostate-specific antigen test, a controversial blood test known as the PSA, that saved his life. 

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Actor Ben Stiller has become the latest celebrity who has gone public about their health status. On Tuesday, the American actor, comedian, and filmmaker revealed that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014, but was able to beat the disease.

The actor, who is now 50, told The Howard Stern Show that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 48 and has had surgery to remove the tumour three months later.

According to Stiller, who is now cancer-free, it was the prostate-specific antigen test, a controversial blood test known as the PSA, that saved his life.


Here are some important facts you need to know about the PSA test:

What is a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test?

A PSA test is a blood test used primarily to screen prostate cancer. The test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen - a protein produced by prostate cells – in your blood.

Who should get a PSA test?

As per Prostate Cancer UK, you can get a PSA test if you are over 50 and have talked it through with your general practitioner (GP). Also, if you are over 45 and have a higher risk of prostate cancer, you may talk to your GP about having a PSA test.

Your GP may not recommend the PSA test if you have other serious health issues which might cause you more problems than prostate cancer would.

Who's at risk of getting prostate cancer?

You may be more likely to get prostate cancer if:

  • you are aged 50 or over
  • you are Black
  • your father or brother has had it.

Why the test is done?

The PSA test is done for early detection of of prostate cancer which is common, and a frequent cause of death among men. As per Mayo Clinic, the PSA test is only one tool used to screen for early signs of prostate cancer, although another common screening test, usually done in addition to a PSA test, is a digital rectal exam.


However, the downside is that neither the PSA test nor the digital rectal exam can provide enough information for your doctor to diagnose prostate cancer.

The PSA test may be used to judge the effectiveness of a treatment in men diagnosed with prostate cancer. The test may also be used to check for recurring cancer.

How the test is performed?

A medical technician or a nurse will use a needle to draw blood from a vein. The blood sample is then analysed in the lab to measure your PSA level.


What are the risks associated with the PSA test?

Potential risks of the PSA test include:

Biopsy issues - A biopsy is a medical procedure to remove a piece of tissue or a sample of cells from your body for examination. It carries its own risks, including pain, bleeding and infection.

False-positive test results - Even if you don't have prostate cancer, it is possible for you to have a raised PSA level. Thus the PSA test can miss prostate cancer. High PSA levels but no cancer found with biopsy can also cause anxiety or distress.

Other health issues - Treatments can have side effects which can affect your daily life, including urinary and bowel problems, and erection problems.

Can I have sex before a PSA test?

You may be asked to avoid sexual activity for two days before the test because ejaculation 48 hours prior to the test can cause PSA levels to rise temporarily, which may affect the test results.

Will prostate cancer affect my sex life?

While sexual side effects are temporary, treatments for prostate cancer can cause problems. And if you have had surgery involving the pelvic area (prostate, testicular and penile cancers, colorectal and anal cancers), you may need to allow extra time for healing before having sex. 

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