12/11/2012 at 09:00 AM EST
Sir Ian McKellen has revealed that he suffers from prostate cancer.
McKellen – who played Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings
trilogy and reprises the role in the soon-to-open The Hobbit
– tells the Daily Mirror
that he's had "prostate cancer for six or seven years."
But the 73-year-old says the diagnosis is far from a death sentence.
"When you have got it you monitor it and you have to be careful it doesn't spread. But if it is contained in the prostate, it's no big deal," he says.
"Many, many die from it, but it's one of the cancers that is totally treatable so I have 'wasteful watching.' I am examined regularly and it's just contained, it's not spreading. I've not had any treatment," he adds.
Although prostate cancer
can pose a serious health risk if left untreated, the X-Men
actor maintains that detection is key.
"I have heard of people dying from prostate cancer, and they are the unlucky ones, the people who didn't know they had got it and it went on the rampage. But at my age if it is diagnosed, its not life threatening," he says.
He recalls his diagnosis, saying, "You are told what the situation is: you can have an operation but there is no point [in] me having an operation because there is no need for it," he says. "What they are concerned about is the cancer going to spread outside the prostate? If it doesn't you are fine. How do you know if it is spreading? You keep being tested."