What killed Toby Keith? Country music star died after battling rare stomach cancer for two years

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  • Stomach cancer is rare, accounting for 1.5 percent of cancer diagnoses per year
  • The five-year survival rate for stomach – or gastric – cancer is 36 percent 
  • READ MORE: Toby Keith dead at 62: Tributes pour in for country singing legend

Country Music icon Toby Keith, who became famous for his deep voice and patriotic hits, died Monday from stomach cancer at the age of 62. 

The singer-songwriter announced his cancer diagnosis in the summer of 2022, aged 60, and said he was being treated with radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. 

Stomach cancer – or gastric cancer – is rare in the United States, accounting for just 1.5 percent of new cancer diagnoses per year. That’s around 16,000 men an 10,000 women.

And the American Cancer Society reports cases of the cancer have been on the decline each year over the past decade. 

However, experts say the majority of patients are diagnosed at late stage, when it is difficult to treat and may have spread to other parts of the body.  At this point, only a third survive five years from diagnosis. 

This is because the symptoms are too-often mistaken for other, more common problems – like irritable bowel syndrome and food allergies.

But below, DailyMail.com reveals the key red flags to look out for, and what you can do to reduce your risk. 

Toby Keith, who became famous for his deep voice and patriotic hits, died Monday from stomach cancer at the age of 62

Toby Keith, who became famous for his deep voice and patriotic hits, died Monday from stomach cancer at the age of 62

Toby Keith attending the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards in Tennessee in September 2023. The musician announced he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2022

Toby Keith attending the 2023 People’s Choice Country Awards in Tennessee in September 2023. The musician announced he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2022

What is stomach cancer and what are the types of the disease?

Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, begins when cells in the stomach start to grow out of control.

In its earliest stages, people rarely experience symptoms. 

There are several types of stomach cancer, but the most common are adenocarcinomas, which grow in the innermost lining of the stomach called the mucosa. 

There are two types of adenocarcinomas: intestinal, which often has a better prognosis, and diffuse, which grows faster and is harder to treat. 

It is not known what type of stomach cancer Mr Keith had. 

A majority of people diagnosed with stomach cancer are 65 and older - with the average diagnosis age of 68 years old, but Mr Keith was just 60 when he was diagnosed

A majority of people diagnosed with stomach cancer are 65 and older – with the average diagnosis age of 68 years old, but Mr Keith was just 60 when he was diagnosed

There are several types of stomach cancer: adenocarcinomas, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GST) and neuroendocrine tumors. It is not known what type of stomach cancer Mr Keith had

There are several types of stomach cancer: adenocarcinomas, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GST) and neuroendocrine tumors. It is not known what type of stomach cancer Mr Keith had

Symptoms of the disease include poor appetite, losing weight without trying, abdominal pain, heartburn or indigestion, nausea, vomiting blood, black stool, swelling of the abdomen, fatigue and weakness. 

Some of these signs may also be caused by other types of cancer, the ACS said, so you should visit your doctor if you experience worsening or prolonged symptoms.  

Stomach cancer is not common in the United States and accounts for just 1.5 percent of new cancer diagnoses each year. 

The risk is slightly elevated for men, with 1 in 101 men receiving a gastric cancer diagnosis. 

Rates have been on the decline, dropping by about 1.5 percent each year over the past decade. 

In the US, about 26,900 people -16,160 in men and 10,730 in women – will be diagnosed and about 10,900 -6,490 men and 4,390 women – will die in 2024, the ACS estimates. 

The cancer is more common in older people, with a majority of people diagnosed at 65 or older. The average diagnosis age is 68 years old, but Mr Keith was just 60 when he was diagnosed and 62 when he died. 

Risk factors include alcohol and tobacco use, previous stomach surgery, some stomach polyps, genetics and some genetic disorders, obesity, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection and certain occupations, including those in coal, metal or rubber industries. 

Diet, geography and ethnicity are also risk factors. 

Diets heavy on salty or pickled foods, processed, grilled or charcoaled meats and few fruits appear to increase stomach cancer risk. 

Additionally, stomach cancer is more common in East Asia, Eastern Europe, South America and Central America and among Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders, according to the ACS. 

While the disease is rare in the US, approximately 1million people worldwide will receive a diagnosis this year and it is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths globally, according to the World Health Organization.

There are several options for treatment once diagnosed with stomach cancer. 

Mr Keith said he was undergoing radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. 

Treatment options include surgical procedures to remove the cancer, removal of the stomach, laser therapy, radiation therapy to kill cancer cells, chemotherapy to kill and stop the growth of cancer cells and immunotherapy, which harnesses the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer.  

The survival rate for stomach cancer can vary widely, but the average five-year survival rate is 36 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute. 

That increases to 75 percent for cancer that is only in the stomach.

For cancer that has spread beyond the stomach to nearby organs, the five-year survival rate is 35 percent, but for stomach cancer that has spread beyond the stomach to a distant part of the body drops to just seven percent. 

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