Country singer Toby Keith has died at the age of 62 of stomach cancer, two years after his diagnosis. According to the American Cancer Society, stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, will affect about 26,890 people —16,160 men and 10,730 women — in 2024.
Stomach cancer is a growth of cancer cells that starts in the stomach lining, usually in what is called the main part of the stomach, says the Mayo Clinic. Treatment is most successful when the cancer is confined to this area, however most stomach cancers are discovered when the disease is advanced and a cure less likely.
Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer include trouble swallowing, belly pain, feeling bloated after eating, heartburn, indigestion, nausea, fatigue and losing weight without trying. The causes vary from experiencing a stomach infection to long-standing acid reflux. Some experts blame eating too many salty foods for triggering the disease. We know that smoking is a risk factor as well as having a family history of stomach cancer.
Treatment depends on the individual and stage at which the cancer was diagnosed. It includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy using medicines that attack specific chemicals present in cancer cells. In advanced cases, immunotherapy may be implemented to help the body’s immune system kill cancer cells.
According to People, Keith said his journey battling stomach cancer was “a little bit of a roller coaster.”
“You get good days and, you know, you’re up and down, up and down,” he told E! News at the People’s Choice Country Awards, which saw him accept the Country Icon Award last September. He acknowledged that his treatment included “chemo, radiation, and surgery.”
Despite his grueling protocol, Keith continued to play live, with his last shows taking place in December at Park MGM in Las Vegas.
“3 sold out shows in Vegas was a damn good way to end the year,” he posted on Instagram on December 28.
The National Cancer Institute says that the five-year survival rate for stomach cancer that is localized to the stomach area is 75%. If the cancer has spread beyond the stomach to nearby lymph nodes and organs, the survival rate drops to 35%. If it travels beyond the stomach to distant regions of the body, called metastatic cancer, the survival rate for a five-year period is only 7%. That is why experts urge people who are at risk, or may be suffering from signs and symptoms, to check with their doctor as soon as possible, as early detection is key to survival.
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