The cancer symptoms so many people miss

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Early diagnosis can make a huge difference yet few of us know the common symptoms for the six deadliest cancers.

Dave Dickinson looks back at his father’s death in September 2021 and wonders if things could have been different. His dad, John, had been suffering with uncharacteristic back pain for two weeks when  he went to the GP, who had a hunch something wasn’t quite right.

“My dad rarely went to the doctor. The GP thought he looked unwell, so decided to run some bloods and send them off,” says Dave, 38, an electrical engineer from Devon. 

The results of the blood test were unexpected and catastrophic. Dave’s father had oesophageal cancer. A further scan revealed the tumour had spread down to the join with his stomach and was too advanced to be treatable. 

Tragically, four weeks later, at just 58, John was dead.

David Dickenson at his home in Seaton, Devon. Both of David's parents died relatively young from cancer.
David Dickinson at his home in Seaton, Devon. Both of David’s parents died relatively young from cancer CREDIT: John Lawrence

“It was so quick,” recalls Dave. “At the time, everything was such a blur but I remember my dad being very philosophical about it, saying he’d had a good life.”

Now, looking back, Dave wonders about the cancer that was growing insidiously inside his dad for years and has many unanswered questions.

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“The cancer clearly didn’t happen overnight,” says Dickinson. “He’d been suffering with indigestion for years.  Could that have been part of this? Was it a symptom he shouldn’t have ignored? Should he have gone to the doctor and even then, would it have been found?” And then comes the hardest question of all: “Could we have had more time with him?”

Oesophageal cancer is one of the six “less survivable cancers” that have a five-year survival rate of just 16 per cent – and persistent indigestion is one of the lesser-known symptoms. According to new research by the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, symptom-spotting is a huge problem for the six deadliest cancers – lung, liver, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach. 

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The cancer symptoms so many people miss

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