A diagnosis of cancer is a blow to anyone, and not so long ago it often meant the chance of survival was slim.
However, research has shown that survival rates are skyrocketing and now, while half of the people will get cancer at some point in their lives, half of them will conquer the disease.
This means that survival rates have doubled in the past four decades – in the 1970s, only a quarter of people lived 10 years or more after being diagnosed with cancer.
However, this still varies widely depending on the type of cancer and how quickly it is diagnosed. Cancer Research UK (CRUK) says survival rates range from 98 percent for testicular cancer to just 1 percent for pancreatic cancer. In fact, a quarter of cancers – known as the “less viable cancers” – have an average 5-year survival rate of only 16 percent.
To raise awareness, January 11th marked the first day of awareness-raising for less viable cancers, with the aim of highlighting the critical importance of early diagnosis in improving the survival and quality of life of people with six “less viable cancers” – Lungs, liver, brain, esophagus, pancreas and stomach.
The Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce (LSCT) says these cancers are diagnosed in more than 80,000 people in the UK each year and are responsible for nearly half of all common cancer deaths.
LSCT, which was founded by charities that support patients with these cancers, says a major reason these cancers have lower survival rates is that they are generally more difficult to diagnose. People with less viable cancer are twice as likely to go undiagnosed until their symptoms are severe enough to be hospitalized compared to those with more viable cancer.
Anna Jewell, Chair of LSCT, said, “Early diagnosis can vastly improve the life expectancy of people with less viable cancers, whatever concerns.”
Dr. Rachel Orritt, Health Information Manager at CRUK, added, “Cancer has many different possible symptoms, so it is important to see your doctor if you notice anything that is not normal for you. It probably won’t be cancer. But if it does, detecting it early means the treatment is more likely to be successful.
“This is a very difficult time for the NHS but this shouldn’t prevent people from seeking help when they notice something unusual or fear they may have cancer. If getting to a family doctor office or getting an appointment is difficult, keep trying. An earlier diagnosis can make all the difference. “
The LSCT warns that less viable cancers, for which screening programs are limited or nonexistent, may have few early symptoms, and it says most people are unaware of the usual warning signs – task force research last year Year have shown that the symptoms of the deadliest cancers were only four percent.
“We know that delays in diagnosis lead to much worse outcomes for patients with these rapidly progressing cancers,” says Jewell.
“These cancers are currently difficult or impossible to treat in later stages, and the time from diagnosis to death is often brutally short compared to more viable cancers. We urge everyone to be aware of the symptoms of these deadly cancers and to see a doctor, “help at the earliest opportunity if they see any of the signs.”
So what are the warning signs of less-viable cancers?
Remember, these things do not automatically mean you have cancer and a number of things can cause them. But for your peace of mind and to make sure problems are spotted early, it’s always best to get these potential warning signs urgently reviewed.
Vision and speech problems, headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and changes in your mind or behavior.
Unexpected weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain or swelling, jaundice, itchy skin, tiredness, fever, vomiting blood, and dark urine.
Persistent cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, unexpected weight loss, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, tiredness or weakness.
Difficulty swallowing, indigestion or heartburn, loss of appetite, vomiting, stomach, chest or back pain, persistent cough, hoarseness, tiredness and shortness of breath.
Back pain or stomach pain, loss of appetite, unexpected weight loss, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice), indigestion, changes in bowel habits.
Indigestion that does not go away, gas, heartburn, feeling full or bloated very quickly when eating small amounts, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain or pain behind the breastbone, difficulty swallowing, unexpected weight loss.
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