Howard Keel: ‘Rich-voiced’ star was killed by cancer in six weeks – symptoms


Having starred in a number of musicals produced by MGM studios, Keel went on to star in CBS television series Dallas as hot-tempered oil baron Clayton Farlow. Reviving his acting career, Keel became incredibly popular amongst viewers and remained within the drama series until its end in 1991. Living well into his 80s, the rich-voiced baritone was diagnosed with colon cancer and just six weeks after, sadly died.

Having battled several health conditions throughout his life, including his choice to go ahead with open heart surgery, Keel had an undeniable passion for life.

Quoted back in 1986, Keel said: “There is always another part. But there is only one life!

“I’m just having too much fun. As long as I can sing well, I’ll keep at it. The minute I feel that the voice is getting down, the minute I feel that I can’t cut the mustard, I’ll quit.”

However, sadly for the star it wasn’t his throat or heart that caused his demise.

DON’T MISS: Pancreatic cancer symptoms: Four signs in your poo to look out for – ‘contact your GP’

Colon cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the large intestine, coming under the umbrella term of bowel cancer. The colon is the final part of the digestive tract and helps to remove water and some nutrients from partially digested food.

In some cases, colon cancer can develop from an abnormal growth in the area, known as a polyp. Over time these polyps can turn cancerous. Due to this it is important that polyps are picked up and treated before anything more serious develops.

The NHS explains that there are three main symptoms that can indicate bowel cancer, which are also important to remember when looking for colon cancer.

These include:

  • Persistent blood in your poo – that happens for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit
  • A persistent change in your bowel habit – which is usually having to poo more and your poo may also become more runny
  • Persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort – that’s always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite or significant unintentional weight loss.


In addition to changes in bowel habits, other possible signs and early symptoms of colon cancer can include feeling persistent abdominal discomfort, weakness or fatigue, unexplained weight loss and a feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely.

These symptoms tend not to develop until the cancer is in advanced stages. In addition, changes in bowel habits and similar health problems could be caused by other conditions such as haemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome.

Due to this, the NHS advises that individuals to seek medical attention when they have noticed symptoms for three weeks or longer. Here, doctors will typically do numerous tests in order to determine the cause.

The exact cause of colon cancer remains unknown, but the NHS does explain several risk factors that can lead individuals to developing the condition. These include:

  • Age – almost nine in 10 people with bowel cancer are aged 60 or over
  • Diet – a diet high in red or processed meats and low in fibre can increase your risk
  • Weight – bowel cancer is more common in overweight or obese people
  • Exercise – being inactive increases your risk of getting bowel cancer
  • Alcohol – drinking alcohol might increase your risk of getting bowel cancer
  • Smoking – smoking may increase your chances of getting bowel cancer
  • Family history – having a close relative (mother or father, brother or sister) who developed bowel cancer under the age of 50 puts you at a greater lifetime risk of developing the condition.

For those with a family history of both bowel and colon cancer, screening is offered to check up on their health more regularly. Everyone aged 60 to 74 who is registered with a GP and lives in England is automatically sent a bowel cancer screening home test kit every two years.

Once diagnosed, doctors will carry out further tests to determine the stage and extent of the disease. This then helps to decide the best course of treatment for the individual.

The stages of colon cancer are indicated by Roman numerals that range from 0 to IV, with the lowest stages indicating cancer that is limited to the lining of the inside of the colon. By stage IV, the cancer is considered advanced and has spread (metastasized) to other areas of the body.

A combination of treatments for colon and bowel cancer can be used but surgery is the most common. In some cases, where the cancer is very small, minimally invasive surgery will be used. In other cases, for more advanced colon cancer, whole parts of the colon will be removed.

When it is not possible to reconnect healthy portions of the colon or rectum, individuals may need a colostomy. This involves creating an opening in the wall of your abdomen from a portion of the remaining bowel for the elimination of stool into a bag that fits securely over the opening.

Sometimes the colostomy is only temporary, allowing your colon or rectum time to heal after surgery. But for others, the colostomy may be permanent.

As with most types of cancer, the chance of a complete cure depends on how far it’s spread by the time it’s diagnosed. If the cancer is confined to the colon, surgery is usually able to completely remove it.

Although there are no sure ways in which individuals can prevent colon cancer from developing, making healthier choices can help to reduce their risk. For example, eating a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is recommended, as is limiting alcohol intake and quitting smoking.



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