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Photo by: Dovima-2010 on Flickr

Fashion designer, socialite and artist Gloria Vanderbilt passed away Monday, less than one month after she was diagnosed with an advanced form of stomach cancer. She was 95.

Vanderbilt was best known for stitching her signature on the back pocket of designer jeans for women in the mid-1970’s, which she built into a $100 million fashion empire.

“Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms,” said Vanderbilt’s son, CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “She was a painter, a writer and designer but also a remarkable mother, wife and friend.”

The most common type of stomach cancer is adenocarcinoma. Dr. Rutika Mehta, a medical oncologist in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program, says one of the risk factors for adenocarcinoma is a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). “If you have symptoms of heartburn and indigestion and are diagnosed with H. pylori, it is important to get treated,” said Mehta.

Other risk factors include:

  • Decreased acid secretion from a prior stomach surgery such as gastric bypass
  • Exposure to certain compounds like nitroso compounds, which are found in cured meat
  • Infection with the Epstein Barr virus, in rare cases
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
Dr. Rutika Mehta, Gastrointestinal Oncology

Dr. Rutika Mehta, Gastrointestinal Oncology

“Stomach cancer symptoms are usually very vague,” said Mehta. “Most complain of pain in the abdomen, feeling full very fast and weight loss.” Some patients have symptoms of anemia, a condition in which the blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells, and others could be throwing up blood or passing dark-colored stools which suggests blood in the stool.

If caught early, stomach cancer can be treated with surgery or endoscopic procedures. More advanced cancers are treated with a one or combination of following options: chemotherapy, targeted treatment or immunotherapy. In some cases, patients can be eligible for clinical trials.