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Ben Stiller opens up for the first time since revealing cancer diagnosis

Ben Stiller discusses his battle with prostate cancer in his first television interview since revealing the diagnosis.
/ Source: TODAY

Ben Stiller, in his first television interview since revealing he had prostate cancer, told TODAY's Matt Lauer he's "really fortunate" to call himself "cancer free."

"It's a whole new world, so you need to educate yourself. For me, it was learning what the options were," said the actor, who went with recommendations to have his prostate removed.

"I’m doing great. I was really fortunate that my course of treatment was basically an operation and that was it," he said.

Stiller last month revealed he had been diagnosed in June 2014, when he was 48. He had no symptoms at the time, nor any family history of the specific disease, which was detected by a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test that he had taken annually since he was 46.

The test measures the level of PSA, a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland, in a man's blood. According to the National Cancer Institute, the blood level of PSA is often elevated in men with prostate cancer, and the test was approved by the FDA in 1986.

However, a number of benign conditions can cause a man's PSA level to rise, which is one reason the test is considered controversial. Many doctors and organizations recommend yearly PSA screenings for men, beginning at 50 years old. The influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against PSA screenings because it may lead to over-diagnosis.

Stiller's surgeon, Dr. Edward Schaeffer, told Matt that men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer need to understand all of their treatment options and what makes the best sense for the person.

"Men can have difficultly with their urination and with their sexual function after treatment for prostate cancer. It’s not just isolated to surgery. Today, what we do is really try to do a better job recommending active treatment for men versus just watching their cancers," Schaeffer said.

Stiller said despite the side affects normally associated with surgery, specifically incontinence and impotence, he said he’s “all good” and gave a double thumbs up sign.

"It’s a real thing, but when you’re confronted with the question of, 'Hey, do you want to live or do you want to make sure your sex life is the best it can be?' I opted for wanting to get rid of the cancer and see what happens, and luckily everything is cool,” he said.

Stiller said prostate cancer "wasn't on my radar at all" before he started taking the PSA tests, which he attributes to saving his life.

"I don’t know if I would have had as easy a course of treatment or the prognosis that I had," he said.

Schaeffer said he and Stiller are hoping to raise awareness about detection and treatment.

"The best and most important step for individual men is to discuss whether or not they should get testing for prostate dancer with their doctor," he said. "It’s a personal decision.

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