Logo - Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce

Heartburn Cancer UK is a registered supporter of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, a charity representing those who suffer with the six cancers which are least likely to be survived in the UK.  These include lung, liver, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach cancer.  The Less Survivable Cancer Taskforce has recently published a report highlighting “The deadly cancer gap” - These six cancers account for around half of all cancer deaths in the UK, about 69,000 per year.  The average five year survival for these cancers is just 16%, compared to 69% on average for other common cancers.  This is the deadly cancer gap.

The report explains that early and fast diagnosis is key for those with these cancers in order to detect the disease at a stage when curative treatment is possible.  However, one of the difficulties faced in diagnosis of all these cancers is that they have vague symptoms, or no symptoms at all and are therefore harder to diagnose.  This leads to many people being diagnosed at a late stage – and to the appalling 5 year survival rate of only 16%.  Covid-19 has further exacerbated this problem, affecting the NHS like nothing has before and leading to delays in testing and diagnosis in many areas, but especially affecting those with cancer.  Urgent referrals for diagnosis were only 25% of those expected at the peak of the pandemic and by the time the report was published in August, rates were still only 75% of what is usually expected.

The LSCT makes a number of recommendations to help overcome the worsening of the situation due to covid-19 but also to improve the ongoing gap in survivability between these six cancers and others. They are that government works to:

  • Increase public awareness of the non-specific symptoms of these cancers and encourages people to come forward to their GP for investigations.
  • Support GPs to diagnose early
  • Roll out rapid diagnostic centres throughout the UK
  • Improve surveillance of those with liver disease
  • Target screening for those at higher risk
  • Support the development of new tests using breath, saliva and blood for markers of these cancers
  • Roll out use of the cytosponge to diagnose Barrett’s oesophagus.

The full report is entitled “Closing The Deadly Cancer Gap” and makes incredibly interesting reading. 

Anna Jewell, Chair of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce explains “We urge ministers, health service leaders, researchers and healthcare professionals to work with us and our patients to make the recommendations in this report a reality.