Alton, Ill.,
13:25 PM

Health Highlights: Stomach cancer + staying active during cancer

After a diagnosis of stomach cancer in 2021, singer Toby Keith opened up about his cancer journey. 

Despite undergoing surgery, chemo, and radiation treatments, Keith lost his battle earlier this year at the age of 62. 

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is the growth of cancer cells in the lining and wall of the stomach. 

Symptoms aren't always easily identified, according to Katie Nagel, an oncology nurse navigator with OSF HealthCare.

“Unfortunately, with stomach cancer, you don't see symptoms when it's early. But as it starts to progress, you might see some symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, you feel full quicker than you usually do, fatigue. You might notice blood in your stool. It's important to know that most of the time those don't mean cancer, but it's important to let your doctor know if those persist," Nagel says. 

Risk factors for stomach cancer include being older or obese. While there isn't screening for stomach cancer, Nagel says you can modify your diet to be healthier, exercise, and avoid a sedentary lifestyle.

At age 67, a Southern Illinois man is defying the odds as a professional bull rider while battling advanced cancer. 

It's an example of why staying active during cancer can help the fight. 

Jack Sandford gets chemo every other Monday at OSF HealthCare Moeller Cancer Center in Alton. But other times, he's known as “Sandman,” holding on to the bronco for dear life. 

Jack's doctor, Manpreet Sandhu, MD, couldn't believe it. But she says if it helps and the person is up for it, pursue the hobby.

“Chemotherapy medicines are strong. They will make your muscles and bones weak," Dr. Sandhu says. "If we maintain our physical strength, we’re able to counteract those side effects better. In addition, staying active also improves immune health.”

Sandford says he's thankful for his two families helping his cancer fight. His family by blood, and his bull riding family.

“The man upstairs put a bump in the road for me. He didn’t tell me to quit," Sandford says.

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