The death of James Michael Tyler – keeping the prostate cancer awareness conversation going

By Julia Brennan

Image – Creative Commons License/Google

The untimely death of James Michael Tyler, the actor best known for playing the beloved Central Perk café manager Gunther in the award-winning TV show ‘Friends’, has reminded us that awareness around cancer and its symptoms remains a vital and much-needed ongoing discussion.

According to a Media Village article, Tyler, aged 59, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2018. Tyler became an active cancer awareness advocate after receiving his diagnosis. On Sunday the 24th of October, Tyler succumbed to the illness.

His fellow ‘Friends’ actors, including including Jennifer Aniston, paid their tributes to their dear co-star. Aniston posted her final scripted scene with Gunther to Instagram stating, “Friends would not have been the same without you…You will be so missed”.

The official ‘Friends’ TV show Twitter also mourned the loss of the actor, by tweeting “Warner Bros. Television mourns the loss of James Michael Tyler, a beloved actor and integral part of our FRIENDS family”.

With the month of ‘Movember’ rapidly approaching, a yearly event where men grow out their facial hair to raise awareness of men’s health issues, it seems only appropriate to discuss this disease and how you can be aware of any symptoms that may appear.

In Ireland alone, about 3,890 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, meaning that 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime according to the Irish Cancer Society. It is regarded as the second most common cancer in the country.

A spokesperson from the Irish Cancer Society said that prostate cancer is more common in older men. “The risk increases with age. It usually affects men over 50.  Nearly 2 in every 3 prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over 65, and it is rare in men under 40. The average age at diagnosis is about 66.”

Prostate cancer does have treatments including active surveillance, external beam radiotherapy, hormone therapy and much more. 

“Some men with a prostate cancer diagnosis may be given the choice between different treatment options, and indeed they may worry that they may not choose the right treatment. It is imperative that if anyone is given the choice between treatments, that they openly discuss these treatment options with their medical team/family so that the patient/family involved can make an informed decision,” said Irish Cancer Society spokesperson.

There are many reductions of risk, mainly revolving around keeping a good physical weight and active lifestyle and most importantly, having a knowledge of your family health history and discussing with your GP the pros and cons of PSA and DRE (Digital Rectal Examination) testing.

Despite prostate cancer being common, it’s still important to keep the conversation going and ensure people know the symptoms and signs. So, what is the prostate and what does it do?

The prostate gland is a small gland the size of a walnut that lies just below the bladder. Running through your prostate is a tube that helps carry urine. If the prostate becomes enlarged it can become increasingly difficult to pass urine because it presses on the urethra.

The prostate is also responsible for semen production that mixes with sperm. It also makes a protein called prostate specific antigen (PSA), which turns semen into liquid. If your PSA level is higher than usual it can be a sign of prostate cancer, however it can also be a sign of a prostate or urinary infection.

For further information, help and support on prostate cancer please visit the Irish Cancer Society website at or the HSE website at

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