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Mon 27 Nov 2023

Missed opportunities to diagnose stomach and oesophageal cancer earlier making them among deadliest in Wales

New report by Tenovus Cancer Care, funded by MSD, highlights catastrophic survival rates for oesophageal and stomach (oesophago-gastric) cancers.

Oesophago-gastric cancers have some of the poorest outcomes in Wales and are considered two of the six “less survivable” cancers. Despite making up just 4.5% of all cancers, they are responsible for 7.7% of all cancer deaths.

Data and Freedom of Information requests, included in the report, reveal the reasons behind this deadly gap. Low symptom awareness, high emergency presentation, lack of access to diagnostic procedures, and inconsistent monitoring of those most at risk, are all contributing factors.

If diagnosed at stage 1, one year survival for oesophageal cancer is 91% compared to just 21% at stage 4. If diagnosed at stage 1, one year survival for stomach cancer is 85% dropping significantly to 18% at stage 4.

Tenovus Cancer Care and specialists warn of serious consequences of delayed diagnosis and call for action to secure the improvements for oesophago-gastric seen across other cancers. These are:

  • Expand the capacity of endoscopy services in Wales with a focus on embedding new innovative technologies;
  • Create a national registry for people with Barrett’s oesophagus in Wales, the only known precursor to oesophageal cancer;
  • Increase awareness of the vague and non-specific symptoms of oesophago-gastric

445 people were diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and 348 people were diagnosed with stomach cancer in Wales in 2020. Despite incidence and survival for these cancers marginally improving over time, they were still responsible for 680 deaths in 2021.

Judi Rhys MBE, Chief Executive at Tenovus Cancer Care, said:

People diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers still have a shockingly low life expectancy.

“The findings in the report published today are really concerning. But we can see from the data that there is potential to improve survivability for this underserved cancer type, which could result in hundreds of people living longer.

“We are on a mission to close this deadly gap and provide a better chance of survival for everyone affected.”

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