Learning about Stomach Cancer
- Country star Toby Keith recently announced he was diagnosed with stomach cancer last fall. Now, he’s thanking fans for all the support they’ve shown him since he broke the news.
- Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is more likely to form in the gastroesophageal junction – the area where the long tube (esophagus) that carries food you swallow meets the stomach for people in the United States.
- A mutation in the CDH1 gene means you may have a condition known as Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC) syndrome which dramatically increases your lifetime risk of developing lobular breast cancer and diffuse stomach (gastric) cancer.
Some might say that Keith is living the American dream. He’s been married to Tricia Lucus since 1984, he’s a father of three to Shelley Rowland, born in 1984 and adopted by Toby in 1984, Krystal, born in September 1985, and Stelen, born in 1997 and he’s an iconic fixture of the popular country genre.Read More
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“Last fall I was diagnosed with stomach cancer,” Keith posted to Instagram on Sunday evening. “I’ve spent the last 6 months receiving chemo, radiation and surgery. So far, so good. I need time to breathe, recover and relax.
“I am looking forward to spending this time with my family. But I will see the fans sooner than later. I can’t wait.”
After releasing his first album in five years last October, Peso In My Pocket, Keith had been on tour. But now any upcoming tour dates have been removed from his website.
But as he continues on his cancer journey ahead, Keith is grateful knowing he’s not alone.
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“Thank you for all your love and support,” he wrote in his most recent post. “I have the best fans in the world.’
After his shout-out to fans everywhere, users were not shy about sharing more praise and support for Keith.
“Haven’t stopped thinking about you. Love you so much,” wrote Instagram user @krissi.annette.
“Can’t wait for the comeback concert!” another fan wrote (@ldgc2219). “Hopefully will get front row again to lift a solo cup and cheers to your health and beating this!!!”
Another user (@ggmetal7462) chimed in saying: “We have been with you through the highs and lows. No one fights alone! You’re in my thoughts and prayers and wishing you the time you need to heal. Stay tough cowboy!”
Needless to say, Keith has a whole army of supporters rooting for him as he recovers from treatment and navigates the road ahead.
Understanding Toby Keith’s Type of Cancer: Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, can affect any part of the stomach. Interestingly enough, stomach cancers usually develop in the main part of the stomach (stomach body) for most of the world, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In the United States, however, stomach cancer is more likely to form in the gastroesophageal junction – the area where the long tube (esophagus) that carries food you swallow meets the stomach.
Factors that increase your risk of having stomach cancer include:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- A diet high in salty and smoked foods
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Family history of stomach cancer
- Infection with Helicobacter pylori
- Long-term stomach inflammation (gastritis)
- Stomach polyps
Treatment options for stomach cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted drug therapy and immunotherapy. The decision-making process for choosing a treatment path can vary depending on a few factors including:
- The cancer’s location
- The stage of the cancer
- How aggressive the cancer is
- Your overall health
- Your treatment preferences
Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer are not exclusive to the disease, but they may include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling bloated after eating
- Feeling full after eating small amounts of food
- Stomach pain
- Unintentional weight loss
As always, having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have stomach cancer. These things are more likely to be caused by other issues, but it’s always a good idea to see your doctor if you’re worried. You never know when speaking up about an issue can lead to a very important diagnosis.
Preventing Stomach Cancer Before It Happens
Another thing to note about stomach cancer is that having a rare genetic mutation in the CDH1 gene means you may have a condition known as Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC) syndrome which dramatically increases your lifetime risk of developing lobular breast cancer and diffuse stomach (gastric) cancer, according to Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center.
Fewer than 3 percent of all stomach cancers are HDGC, but this type of stomach cancer is very aggressive. It’s also important to note that the CDH1 genetic mutation can be inherited. A parent with the CDH1 mutation has a 50 percent chance of passing it on to a child, according to Stanford Health Care.
Though most families with the CDH1 mutation will have several generations of relatives infected, it’s also possible for someone to develop a new (de novo) CDH1 genetic mutation meaning they’re the first in the family to get the mutation.
Amy Armstrong is a breast cancer survivor with a family history stomach cancer. In a previous conversation with SurvivorNet, she shared the story of how she took matters into her own hands upon discovering that she had the CDH1 mutation.
“[My mom] uncovered that she had a very rare stomach cancer gene called CDH1,” Armstrong said. “If you have this gene, not only is it incredibly rare, but you’re also confronted [with] making a pretty big decision to avoid getting stomach cancer.”
The decision Armstrong was referring to whether or not to get a prophylactic gastrectomy – a preventative surgery where all or part of the stomach is removed.
“When my mom found out that she had the gene, it had a domino effect for not only her siblings to be tested for the gene, but also her children and 3 out of 4 of us, my siblings, tested positive for the gene,” she explained. “When I found out about having the gene, I was angry, terrified.
“At 35 years old, I didn’t think that I would have to be confronted with something such as a great decision to get your stomach removed.”
But for Armstrong, having her stomach removed seemed to be the right choice to reduce her chance of getting cancer.
“Now I’m happy to report it’s been two years since I’ve had any surgery,” she said. “And I feel fabulous.”
She even went on to have children through IVF, or in vitro fertilization, which allowed her to prevent the gene from being passed on to her children.
“I went through the IVF route and was able to find and research companies that could build a DNA probe that could essentially test a viable embryo through one molecule once those embryos were formed to determine which of those embryos could be used to implant to hopefully have children,” she said. “I had over 25 embryos and only seven of them were considered inactive with the CDH1 gene.
“So for me, I’m very thankful for IVF because the odds were against me and my children that they would have this gene.”
If you find out that you have a CDH1 mutation through genetic testing, you should consult with a clinical genetics expert to determine your overall risk and options. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, you may want to consider having the risk-reducing gastrectomy if your risk is high.