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Photo by: Fishhawk, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Country music singer Toby Keith shared with fans he is battling stomach cancer.

The 60-year-old posted to Instagram that he was diagnosed with the disease last fall and has spent the past six months “receiving chemo, radiation and surgery.”

He went on to say, “So far, so good. I need time to breathe, recover and relax.” Keith is currently on tour for his new album, and while no official announcements have been made about rescheduling, he said he is “looking forward to spending this time with my family. But I will see the fans sooner than later. I can’t wait.”

According to the American Cancer Society, about 26,380 cases of stomach cancer will be diagnosed in 2022 in the United States. The disease mostly affects those 65 and over and is more common in men than women.

In the U.S. the number of new stomach cancer cases has been dropping by about 1.5% each year over the past 10 years.

Dr. Rutika Mehta, medical oncologist

Dr. Rutika Mehta, medical oncologist

“Historically, Helicobacter pylori [H. pylori] is known to be a risk factor for gastric cancer,” said Dr. Rutika Mehta, a medical oncologist in the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. “However, H. pylori rates are very low in the U.S. due to better sanitation than in some developing countries. One of the more common risk factors in the U.S. is more likely due to possible acid reflux.”

Mehta says stomach cancer death rates have declined due to better treatment options that have improved survival, including targeted therapies and immunotherapies. There has also been an increase of clinical trials focusing on the disease.

Other factors for stomach cancer include:

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

While most stomach cancer symptoms are usually vague, many patients complain of abdomen pain, feeling full very fast and weight loss. Some patients also have symptoms of anemia, could be throwing up blood or passing dark-colored stools.

If caught early, stomach cancer can be treated with surgery or endoscopic procedures. More advanced cancers are treated with one or a combination of chemotherapy, targeted treatments or immunotherapy.