• Question: what is the most deadly cancer? why is it so deadly?

    Asked by shrike to Gioia, Iain, Jo, Leo, Mariam on 14 Jun 2010 in Categories: . This question was also asked by bean9697, heath1, lucascosmos13, claireandhannah, valerieoo, bobo, jaffacake, issiphee1, thekaties, alicejoanna97, katieeandbeccaa, karat, annibella13, shannonx2.
    • Photo: Joanna Watson

      Joanna Watson answered on 13 Jun 2010:

      That is a REALLY good question Shrike!

      The answer depends on what you mean by most deadly.

      Lung cancer definitely kills the greatest number of people every year. About 35,000 people die of lung cancer every year in the UK and about 1.2 million people die of lung cancer every year across the whole world.

      We have another way of looking at how deadly a cancer is though, which we call five-year survival. This means that we look at how many people are still alive 5 years after they are diagnosed with cancer.

      Lung cancer has the second worst survival with approximately 7% of men and 9% of women still being alive 5 years after they are diagnosed with lung cancer. The cancer with the worst survival though is pancreas cancer – only 3% of people who are diagnosed with pancreas cancer are still alive 5 years later.

      There are lots of things that affect why these cancers are so deadly. The main things are how many people get the cancer in the first place (which is called cancer incidence), how advanced the cancers are when they are diagnosed (because the more advanced the cancer is the harder it is to treat) and how good the treatments are.

      Lung cancer and pancreas cancer are both very deadly because the available treatments are not as effective as those for some other cancers (for example breast cancer) and also because they are often diagnosed when they are very advanced.

      I hope that answers your question. If you would like to know anything else, please let me know.


    • Photo: Mariam Orme

      Mariam Orme answered on 13 Jun 2010:

      Well, it depends on how you define deadly.

      In the UK, lung cancer kills more people than any other type of cancer, so you could say it’s the most deadly. It kills so many people because it’s very common and is quite hard to treat.

      Pancreatic cancer kills far fewer people because it’s much less common. But I would say it’s very deadly because of those people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, about 97% die within five years. The main reason that such a large proportion of pancreatic cancer patients die so soon after diagnosis is that it doesn’t really have any symptoms early on – so cases are often not diagnosed until they’re in pretty late stages, by which time it’s very difficult to successfully treat the disease.

    • Photo: Iain Moal

      Iain Moal answered on 14 Jun 2010:

      The most deadly cancer is the one that is found too late. All cancers have a better prognosis is found and treated as early as possible. Some cancers are really hard to detect early though, such as pancreatic cancer, and so these have lower survival rates that other cancers that are easier to detect. Other cancers kill more people because more people get them, such as lung cancer.

      Cancers are usually dangerous for one of three reasons: (1) They grow on or into something important, like the heart, brain or lungs, and stop them working properly. (2) They use up a lot of the nutrients and energy that the body has. (3) They can grow on glands and cause an abnormal amount of hormones to be made, which can have some dangerous consequences.

      Cancers can also be dangerous because they are metastatic, which means they spread to other parts of the body. Some types, such as head and neck cancers, can also be hard to remove by surgery because they are near important things. Also, cancer can develop drug resistance, which means that the drugs stops working properly.

    • Photo: Gioia Cherubini

      Gioia Cherubini answered on 14 Jun 2010:

      I think there is more than one very deadly cancer unfortunately. They are the silent ones, those that grow without giving you any sign and that you can detect only when they are already too big to be operated or trated. Pancreatic cancer, which I work on, it’s one of those and I hope that my research will help make this cancer at least less deadly