Ben Stiller Survived Prostate Cancer — A Look Back at His Diagnosis and Battle with the Disease

Known for starring in comedy favorites like “Zoolander” and “Meet the Fockers,” the multi-talented star’s battle with cancer inspired him to campaign for others to educate themselves about the illness.

54-year-old comedian, director, and actor Ben Stiller has been a household comedic star at least since the early ‘90s, and he has since led an impressive career both behind and in front of the cameras.

Throughout his career, Stiller has given life to some hilarious Hollywood characters, such as Greg Focker, Derek Zoolander, and Chas Tenenbaum. Still, behind these hysterical characters, there is a real man who has gone through life-threatening situations.

Ben Stiller visits the SiriusXM Studios on May 06, 2019 in New York City. I Image: Getty Images.

Ben Stiller visits the SiriusXM Studios on May 06, 2019 in New York City. I Image: Getty Images.

When Stiller was 47, he was shocked by the news that he had an aggressive disease. Going through it and remaining alive to talk about it really meant a change of perspective for the actor and father-of-two.

ADDRESSING THE ISSUE

In 2016, Stiller addressed his past battle with prostate cancer in public for the first time, breaking two years of keeping his diagnosis to himself and his immediate family.

It was in October that year that Stiller sat for an interview with the controversial radio personality Howard Stern, alongside the doctor in charge of the surgery he had to undergo to treat the illness.

Already cancer-free at the time, Stiller chose to open up about his health ordeal on such a high-profile platform (The “Howard Stern Show”) with the hope of prompting younger men to get checked for the illness early.

AN EARLY DIAGNOSIS

Apart from sharing his experience in the aforementioned show, Stiller took to Medium on October 4, 2016, to post an essay titled “The Prostate Cancer Test That Saved My Life,” to spread his urgent message further.

 As Stiller revealed in the essay, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer on June 13, 2014, which marked the start of a three-month “roller coaster ride with which about 180,000 men a year in America can identify.”

 After a rapid search on the Internet, Stiller recalled some high profile men who had overcome prostate cancer, such as John Kerry, Joe Torre, Mandy Patinkin, and Robert DeNiro, which gave him a sense of hope.

Upon learning more about the illness, Stiller came to realize how lucky he was to have been diagnosed at an early stage of this aggressive form of cancer. He admitted that he only learned of his diagnosis thanks to his internist giving him “a test he didn’t have to.” 

“If [the internist] 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 shared, in hopes of inspiring others not to wait until it is too late.

SHARING HIS JOURNEY

Knowing that no time was to be wasted if he wanted to overcome the illness, Stiller still had to evaluate the different possibilities that existed for a case like his. He consulted several experts until he made the decision to go with Dr. Edward Schaeffer.

As Schaeffer recommended, Stiller agreed to undergo surgery for his tumor to be removed. Schaeffer headed the surgical procedure, which consisted of a “robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy,” as the actor detailed. 

Even though he can now look back with humor at this severe health issue, Stiller told Stern that he was terribly scared before going into the operating room. He admitted picturing his funeral even before he was confirmed to have prostate cancer.

Not surprisingly, Stiller admitted that he appreciates life much more after having gone through such a life-threatening and life-changing journey.

A FRIENDLY SPLIT

Not long after going on his cancer journey, Stiller and his then-wife of 18 years, fellow actress Christine Taylor, announced their split in 2017, apparently due to conflicting schedules.

While the news of the couple’s split was confirmed in a statement shared with ET Online in May 2017, three years later, there haven’t been any signs of anyone officially filing for divorce.

“Our priority will continue to be raising our children as devoted parents and the closest of friends. We kindly ask that the media respect our privacy at this time,” the aforementioned statement read.

Stiller and Taylor share two children. The older of the two is daughter Ella, born on April 9, 2002. A son named Quinn followed on July 10, 2005. Both children have collaborated in some way in some of their father’s films.

Not only have Stiller and Taylor not taken further action to end their marriage legally, but they have also continued to work together and regularly attend red carpet events together.

Quinlin Stiller, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor and Ella Stiller attend the "Zoolander 2" World Premiere at Alice Tully Hall on February 9, 2016 in New York City. I Image: Getty Images.

Quinlin Stiller, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor and Ella Stiller attend the "Zoolander 2" World Premiere at Alice Tully Hall on February 9, 2016 in New York City. I Image: Getty Images.

As recently as September 2019, Stiller and Taylor attended the Emmy Awards ceremony together, and the two were glad to pose for photos together upon their arrival at the event, during which they also sat together.

Taylor was there to support Stiller, who was nominated for best director for the drama miniseries “Escape at Dannemora,” which premiered on Showtime in 2018.

HIS FATHER’S LEGACY

While Stiller is happy to explore more dramatic productions both as an actor and director, he is very proud to come from a comedic couple, Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, both of whom have already passed.

Ben Stiller and Jerry Stiller arrive at the Urban Zen Center At Stephan Weiss Studio on February 11, 2011 in New York City. I Image: Getty Images.

Ben Stiller and Jerry Stiller arrive at the Urban Zen Center At Stephan Weiss Studio on February 11, 2011 in New York City. I Image: Getty Images.

Meara was the first to go, passing away in 2015, and Jerry, the most recognizable of the two, also left us early in May 2020, at age 92.

A week after the news broke of Jerry’s death, his son Stiller opened up about his father’s comedic legacy in an extensive interview with The New Yorker.

First and foremost, Jerry and Meara’s legacy lives through their children, Stiller and his sister Amy, who also grew to be an actress and comedian. As Stiller shared back then, for him and Amy, show business “was the fabric of our lives.”

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