The British Liver Trust marked the Less Survivable Cancers Awareness Day by calling for urgent action from parliamentarians in Westminster, the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd to tackle delays in diagnosis for deadly cancers leading to catastrophic outcomes.
The British Liver Trust, along with the five other health charities form the Less Survivable Cancer Taskforce (LSCT) represent the six less survivable cancers, liver, lung, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach. Combined these cancers make up nearly half of all common cancer deaths in the UK.
Shockingly, liver cancer is now the fastest rising cause of cancer death in the UK with almost 9 in 10 liver cancer patients dying within 5 years of being diagnosed (13% survival rate). Liver cancer is a silent killer as there are often no symptoms in its early stages. Symptoms include weight loss, jaundice, swelling in your abdomen and itchy skin.
Over 40 MPs attended the LSCT event at Westminster on Wednesday and over 20 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) attended the Holyrood event on Tuesday including Public Health Minister Maree Todd MSP.
The British Liver Trust team were joined by Billy and Monica (supporters of the Trust) who advocated for improving earlier diagnosis of liver cancer with politicians and shared their own personal experience of being diagnosed with liver cancer.
In Wales, the Cross Party Group on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer secured the first ever debate on the liver health public health emergency at the Senedd on Wednesday to sound the alarm on the rising liver cancer deaths in Wales which have almost doubled (93% increase) over the last decade.
Pamela Healy OBE, CEO of the British Liver Trust and Liver Cancer UK said:
“We are delighted to have over 60 parliamentarians across UK parliaments back our calls to detect liver cancer earlier and improve outcomes for patients diagnosed with the less survivable cancers.”
Adding “Urgent action is needed to improve liver cancer survival as the fastest rising cause of cancer death in the UK. It’s vital that the less survivable cancers such as liver cancer are not overlooked and left behind in the Government’s forthcoming 10 year cancer plan.”
New data released on Less Survivable Cancers Awareness Day shows that only 1% of people were able to correctly identify all symptoms of liver cancer from a list presented to them.
Since the majority of these symptoms do not occur until liver cancer is at an advanced stage, the British Liver Trust is calling for improved earlier diagnosis of liver disease as the biggest risk factor for liver cancer. We are also calling for improved cancer surveillance for groups most at risk including people with cirrhosis and chronic Hepatitis B.
Anna Jewell, Chair of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, added:
“It is deeply concerning that most of the general public are unaware of common symptoms of less survivable cancers. We’re also calling on all UK governments to commit to increasing survival rates for less survivable cancers to 28% by 2029 by delivering on their commitments to speed up diagnosis and proactively investing in research and treatment options.”