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Stomach cancer symptoms and risk factors to know following Toby Keith's death

Country music star Toby Keith has died at 62 after previously revealing he was undergoing treatment for stomach cancer.

A statement on Keith's social media and website announced early Tuesday that he "passed peacefully last night on February 5th, surrounded by his family. He fought his fight with grace and courage."

Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, is a cancer that starts in the cells lining the stomach, the organ located on the left side of the upper abdomen that digests food, the National Cancer Institute explains.

In the United States, stomach cancer accounts for about 1.5% of all new cancers diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society. For 2024, the organization estimates the U.S. will see about 26,890 new cases of stomach cancer and about 10,880 deaths from the disease.

"Stomach cancer is different from other cancers that can occur in the abdomen, like cancer of the colon or rectum (large intestine), liver, pancreas, or small intestine," the organization notes. "These cancers can have different symptoms, different outlooks and different treatments."

Stomach cancer symptoms

According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of stomach cancer may include: 

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Belly pain, indigestion and bloating after eating
  • Heartburn
  • Feeling full after small amounts of food or not feeling hungry when you'd expect to
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Black stools

"Stomach cancer doesn't always cause symptoms in its early stages. When they happen, symptoms might include indigestion and pain in the upper part of the belly," the Mayo Clinic says. "Symptoms might not happen until the cancer is advanced."

Stomach cancer risk factors

While the exact cause of stomach cancer is unknown, there are risk factors to be aware of, including:

  • Smoking and alcohol use
  • A diet high in salty, smoked and processed foods or low in fruits and vegetables
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Genetics and family history
  • Infections in the stomach, particularly of Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) bacteria
  • Problems with stomach acid and other medical conditions
  • Stomach polyps
  • Environmental and occupational exposures

While stomach cancer can occur in younger people, risk goes up as a person gets older, with most cases diagnosed in people in their 60s or above. It is also more common in men than women.

"Having a risk factor, or even several risk factors, does not mean that you will get the disease," the American Cancer Society notes. "Many people with one or more risk factors never get cancer, while others who get cancer may have had few or no known risk factors."

Stomach cancer treatment

Treatment options will depend on an individual's stage of cancer and other personal factors, but may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy or targeted drug therapy. 

In June 2022, Keith announced he'd been undergoing treatment for stomach cancer since the previous fall. The multi-platinum-selling singer-songwriter tweeted at the time that he'd had surgery and chemotherapy and radiation in the prior six months.

The National Cancer Institute says there is currently no routine screening test to detect stomach cancer in people at average risk, but people at higher risk may benefit from screening with upper endoscopy, a process in which a thin tube is inserted through the mouth to check for abnormal tissue in the digestive tract.

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