"Friends" Star Warns Men to Do This After His Cancer Diagnosis
James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther on "Friends," has urgent advice.
Friends: The Reunion aired just last month, and on June 21, one of the actors featured in the special announced that he has cancer. While on Today, James Michael Tyler—who played Gunther on the series—shared that he's been battling prostate cancer since Sept. 2018. The illness has unfortunately spread to other parts of the 59-year-old actor's body because it wasn't caught early. Now, Tyler is trying to help save lives by sharing what he's learned from his experience. Read on to see the actor's urgent warning.
James Michael Tyler warns people to get screened for prostate cancer.
While on Today, Tyler said his only reason for letting the world know about his diagnosis is to help save lives. "That's my new role," he said. The actor feels that the best way to do this is to encourage people to get prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests early.
According to the Mayo Clinic, these tests can detect high levels of PSA, which may indicate prostate cancer. "Next time you go in for just a basic exam or your yearly checkup, please ask your doctor for a PSA test. It's easily detectable," Tyler said. He added that when caught early, there are a number of treatment options for prostate cancer. "A lot of men, if they catch this early, it's easily treatable," he continued. "I don't want people to have to go through what I've been going through. This is not … an easy process."
Start getting PSA screenings between 40 and 50, depending on your level of risk.
Deciding when you should start getting PSA screenings depends on a few factors. The Prostate Cancer Foundation suggests that those at higher risk, such as Black people or people with a family history of cancer, start talking to their doctor about screenings at age 40. For those who don't have added risk factors, the foundation recommends discussing screenings with your doctor at age 45. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the decision should be made with your health care provider.
Tyler's prostate cancer is late stage.
When Tyler was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, it had already spread to his bones. Now the cancer is stage 4. The actor began hormone therapy shortly after his diagnosis. He said this worked well for a while and allowed him to "go about life regularly" while taking three different medications. However, the cancer then spread to his spine, resulting in paraplegia, or paralysis of the lower body. And things have gotten worse over the last year. "The cancer decided to mutate at the time of the pandemic, and so it's progressed," Tyler said. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
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Tyler's cancer was the reason he didn't attend the Friends reunion in person.
Although Tyler wanted to be with his castmates in person for the recent Friends reunion special, his condition kept him home. "I wanted to be a part of that, and initially, I was going to be on the stage, at least, with them, and be able to take part in all the festivities," Tyler said. "It was bittersweet, honestly. I was very happy to be included. It was my decision not to be a part of that physically and make an appearance on Zoom, basically, because I didn't wanna bring a downer on it, you know? … Didn't want to be like, 'Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.'" He noted that many of his castmates and the show's producers know about his diagnosis and have been supportive.