Toby Keith Dies After Stomach Cancer Battle—These Are the Symptoms to Know
Early diagnosis is key, so don't ignore certain signs, experts say.
We lost several beloved celebrities in 2023—and while we're barely two months into 2024, this year is shaping up to be another heartbreaker. Yesterday, country music legend Toby Keith died at age 62, after a two-year battle with stomach cancer. Keith's family shared the news of his death on X on Feb. 6, stating that he "fought his fight with grace and courage" and asked for privacy.
The "Beer for My Horses" singer first announced his diagnosis in June 2022 on Instagram, explaining that he'd found out six months prior and had done chemo, radiation, and surgery. In Sept. 2023, Keith told E! News that the experience was "a little bit of a roller coaster" with good days and bad.
While Keith publicly addressed the difficulties of his diagnosis, you might not know that much about the symptoms of stomach cancer. It's a less common form in the U.S., according to Sunnie Kim, MD, a University of Colorado (CU) Cancer Center member and assistant professor of medical oncology in the CU School of Medicine. When it does occur, it's not typically diagnosed until it spreads to the lymph nodes or other organs, per The University of Kansas (KU) Cancer Center—and only one in five people survive for five years at these advanced stages.
In better news, while it doesn't always show signs in its initial stages, stomach cancer is often curable when found early enough, according to the Mayo Clinic. With that in mind, it's that much more important to keep an eye out for certain symptoms. Read on to find out which ones you should know.
Nausea and vomiting
According to the KU Cancer Center, the first signs of stomach cancer are "vague," but can include symptoms like nausea and vomiting (with or without blood).
Kim cited abdominal pain as one of the most important symptoms to look out for, and the Mayo Clinic points to this as an early-stage sign. Patients also report abdominal swelling, as well as "vague" discomfort in the abdomen above the navel, per the KU Cancer Center.
Another important sign of stomach cancer is losing weight without trying, according to Kim. This is typically caused by later stages of stomach cancer, the Mayo Clinic says.
Black or bloody stools
Changes in your stool are also something to look out for, specifically bloody stools or black stools. This is another symptom that typically presents during the later stages of stomach cancer, per the Mayo Clinic.
Feeling full after eating only a small amount of food
Feeling very full after only eating a little bit can also be a stomach cancer warning sign.
Not feeling hungry
On the flip side of feeling too full, not feeling hungry when you haven't eaten in a while is another concerning symptom.
Heartburn and indigestion
Heartburn and indigestion can also be signs of trouble. Of course, these can also be much less serious. Unfortunately, stomach cancer has similar symptoms to other gastrointestinal conditions, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastritis, and peptic ulcers, per the KU Cancer Center. These conditions are manageable and treatable with medication.
Feeling very tired
Another late-stage symptom of stomach cancer is feeling extra tired, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor.
Several of these symptoms aren't exclusive to stomach cancer, meaning you might brush them off instead of mentioning them to your doctor. However, Kim advises against this, urging patients "to mention any symptoms they're having, anything that's worrying them," especially if it's abnormal for you or not going away after several months.
"It's not as common to detect stomach cancer in its earlier stages, but I've seen it caught when it has not yet spread and become stage IV. This is another reason I encourage people to mention symptoms that are worrying them to their doctor," Kim tells the CU Cancer Center. "Just as an example, there's a very classic lymph node spread that can happen with stomach cancer—a spread to lymph nodes in the left side of the neck—and sometimes that can be caught in a physical exam. But you need to mention your symptoms to your doctor so they can make a point of feeling for that."
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.
- Source: Mayo Clinic: Stomach cancer