The 6 types of cancer people are least likely to survive

Caroline Allen
·Contributor
·3 mins read
Stomach aches and pains are signs of pancreatic cancer. (Getty Images)
Stomach aches and pains are signs of pancreatic cancer. (Getty Images)

When it comes to cancer, most people expect to find a lump as one of the first signs of the disease.

A new study by the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce (LSCT) found that most people are unaware of the symptoms of less survivable types of cancer.

This lack of awareness could be one of the reasons that the six “least survivable” cancers - lung, liver, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach - have a more fatal later diagnosis.

On the back of this study, LSCT is calling for a focus on investment in these cancers, which combined have a five-year survival rate of just 16%.

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The low survival rate is put down to “a legacy of neglect and underfunding”, yet combined, these cancers account for half of all UK deaths of the disease.

The reason behind this could be because the symptoms that present themselves as “typical” signs are harder to spot.

While lumps and moles are an obvious change in many cancers, in brain cancer - for example - headaches and nausea are the presenting symptoms.

For pancreatic cancer, indigestion, abdominal pain and unexplained weight loss are the three key considerations.

Lesser-known symptoms, according to the NHS, include:

Pancreatic cancer

  • Loss of appetite

  • Feeling tired of having no energy

  • Sickness

  • Diarrhoea or constipation, or other changes in your poo

  • Symptoms of indigestion and/or feeling bloated

Lung cancer

  • A long-term cough

  • Recurring chest infections

  • Breathlessness

  • Tiredness and lack of energy

  • Unexplained weight loss

Liver cancer

  • Loss of appetite

  • No energy

  • Having flu-like symptoms

  • Feeling or being sick

  • A feeling of indigestion

Brain cancer

  • New or persistent headaches

  • Unexplained nausea

  • Loss of sensation in the arm or leg

  • Difficulty with balance

  • Confusion in everyday matters

Oesophageal cancer

  • Problems swallowing

  • Feeling or being sick

  • Heartburn or acid reflux

  • Symptoms of indigestion (such as burping a lot)

  • A hoarse voice

Stomach cancer

  • Heartburn or acid reflux

  • Problems swallowing

  • Feeling or being sick

  • Symptoms of indigestion

  • Feeling full quickly when you eat

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One third of patients will only find out about their diagnoses of the six lesser known cancers after they’re admitted to the hospital in an emergency capacity.

Symptoms like coughing up blood, which may indicate that the cancer is at a later stage, make it less treatable.

The delays in diagnosis mean that thousands of people each year are finding out their prognosis at a later stage.

For more common cancers, a later stage diagnosis has a survival rate of 69% over five years.

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The study found that the UK has one of the worst countries for diagnosing and treating the six less survivable cancers.

This has only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, where one in three people have had their treatments affected by delays.

“Less survivable cancers have been left behind for far too long and the time from diagnosis to death for anyone who has one of these cancers is brutally short,” Anna Jewell, of the Taskforce, explained.

“Our evidence of better outcomes for people diagnosed with more survivable cancers shows that it is possible to increase life expectancies but we urgently need a whole system approach to diagnosing the less survivable cancers earlier and faster.”