Faster diagnosis needed to beat deadliest cancers

25th August 2020

Guts UK is is calling for is calling for focus, prioritisation and investment in order to speed up the detection and diagnosis of the UK’s deadliest cancers, as part of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce (LSCT).

The LSCT represents six less survivable cancers, lung, liver, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach, with an average five-year survival rate of just 16% due to a decades of neglect and underfunding. Together, these ‘less survivable cancers’ make up half of all common cancer deaths in the UK

The LSCT’s new report highlights the overwhelming evidence that late diagnosis of cancer leads to poorer outcomes and that less survivable cancers are far more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage. Around one third of patients with a less survivable cancer will only be diagnosed after an emergency admission to hospital.

The report explains that the reasons for later diagnosis are varied, but a significant factor is that symptoms of less survivable cancers tend to be non-specific and most of the general public are unaware of them. They do not present with noticeable lumps or changes in moles. For example, the typical symptoms of pancreatic cancer are indigestion, abdominal pain and unexplained weight loss. This ambiguity often means that people delay seeking medical help. 

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. 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 these cancers earlier and faster.

The situation is critical. The COVID-19 pandemic has put an enormous strain on our health service but we must continue to act for people affected by these devastating diseases and give them a fighting chance.

We are urging ministers, health service leaders, researchers and healthcare professionals to work with us and our patients to make the recommendations in this report a reality.” – Anna Jewell, Chair of LSCT

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