Updated 16 September 2020

INFOGRAPHIC | The forgotten cancers you should know about

Besides the more common breast, skin and lung cancers, there are a plethora of other cancers that are not as well-known.

  • Besides the more common breast, skin and lung cancers, there are many others 
  • Rare cancers make up 22% of all diagnosed cases in the world
  • In South Africa, before Covid-19, 9% of all deaths were due to cancer

Breast, lung, skin and prostate cancers are the ones most commonly reported in the media - with plenty of research funding and awareness about the signs to look out for.

There are, however, many other types of cancers that are not as well-known because they are less common. Rare cancers account for 22% of all cancers diagnosed worldwide, and they generally have a higher mortality rate.

Part of the reason for this is the lack of incentives from pharmaceutical companies to research these types of cancers. Studies, therefore, tend to be small and poorly funded.   

READ | How honeybee venom can kill breast cancer cells 

In South Africa, about 9% of all pre-Covid-19 deaths were attributed to cancer, according to the health department. The most common cancers in 2014 for women were breast, cervix, colon, uterus and lung cancers. For men, the most common were cancers of the prostate, colon, lung, bladder and oesophagus. 

In children – in whom all cancers are considered rare – the most commons were acute leukaemia, brain tumours, nephroblastoma, neuroblastoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Little-known cancers

Below is a rundown of lesser-known cancers you may be less familiar with, their five-year survival rate and symptoms to look out for.

READ MORE | Breakthrough in cancer treatment: immunotherapy promises turnaround in cancer cure rates 

infographic on different types of cancers

(Image: Gabi Zietsman/Canva)

What to ask your doctor

If you're ever diagnosed with a lesser-known or rare cancer, here are some questions you can ask your doctor to ensure you get the best treatment:

  • How many cases of this type of cancer have they treated?
  • Are there specialist centres that treat this type of cancer?
  • Is it worth it to get a second opinion from a specialist intimately familiar with this type of cancer?
  • What is the aim of treatment?
  • Where is the best place to find more resources on this type of cancer?
  • Are there support groups focused on this specific type of cancer?
  • What are the treatment options?
  • What will it involve?
  • What are the chances the treatment will work?
  • Are there any clinical trials for this cancer one can participate in?

READ | Immunotherapy vs chemotherapy for treating cancer?

Image credit: iStock/Canva


Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit

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