New data reveals only 1% of people in Wales can identity symptoms of less survivable cancers
New data has revealed that as low as 1% of people in Wales are able to correctly identify symptoms of less survivable cancers.
The UK wide survey by Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce found only 1% of respondents in Wales were able to correctly identify all symptoms of oesophogeal cancer from a list presented to them.
Symptom awareness for liver and stomach cancers fared slightly better at 2% and 4% – while only 9% of respondents knew all the symptoms of lung cancer.
11% of people could spot the signs of pancreatic cancer while knowledge of brain tumour symptoms was higher but still only 18%.
Even more concerningly, when asked whether they had a friend or loved one who had delayed seeking medical advice when experiencing symptoms which were later shown to be caused by a less survivable cancer, a massive 35% of respondents in Wales said yes.
Sadly, of these cases, 66% were told by medical professionals that this delay had an impact on their treatment options.
The Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce are warning that not knowing the symptoms early on can drastically affect survival chances.
LSCT released the new data on Less Survivable Cancers Awareness Day to highlight the critical importance of symptom awareness for early diagnosis of certain cancers.
Lung, liver, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach cancer only carry an average five-year survival rate of just 16%.
Together, these less survivable cancers make up nearly half of all common cancer deaths in the UK.
In 2022, the LSCT reported that many patients with a less survivable cancer were only diagnosed after symptoms became severe and required emergency care.
These late diagnoses account, in part, for the catastrophic prognoses for thousands of people each year as patients with cancers that are diagnosed in an emergency suffer significantly worse outcomes.
Judi Rhys MBE, Chief Executive of Tenovus Cancer Care and Chair of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce Wales subgroup, said: “The low symptom awareness of the six less survivable cancers is deeply concerning. It’s something which urgently needs to be improved, as well as addressing the need for more screening programmes and preventative work.
“We worked hard to call for the introduction of a lung cancer screening project in Wales – the biggest cancer killer in the country – and we’re pleased this will finally be implemented in 2023.
“We urge anyone with symptoms to seek medical help at the earliest opportunity, caught early, all these cancers can be treatable. We back the LSCT’s calls for UK governments, including the Welsh Government, to commit to increasing survival rates for less survivable cancers to 28% by 2029.”
Dr Dai Samuel, Consultant Hepatologist and Clinical Lead for Gastroenterology at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital explained that diagnosing cancers such as oesophageal, stomach, liver and pancreatic cancers, can be difficult because they present either with very vague symptoms or with none at all.
Dr Samuel said: “We need to improve our screening strategies for patients at risk of these cancers, but also ensure that those with early symptoms have timely access to diagnostic services to ensure they get the best change of cure or good treatment outcomes. We need to change the public fear of cancer and reinforce that our treatments are becoming more effective day by day.”
Every year around 19,500 people in Wales are diagnosed with cancer and lung, liver, brain, stomach, pancreatic and oesophageal cancer are much harder to treat – especially if they’re not diagnosed early on.
Professor Tom Crosby, Consultant Oncologist and National Cancer Clinical Director for Wales said: “Typical symptoms will vary but red flags for less survivable cancers could include any of the following; indigestion, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, a loss of appetite, difficulty swallowing, a persistent cough, unexplained tiredness, headaches or nausea. The most important thing is to seek medical help swiftly if you notice anything unusual for you.
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