Rare cancers

A rare cancer affects a small number of people, starts in an unusual part of the body or is an unusual type of cancer.

What are rare cancers?

There are more than 200 different types of cancer, including leukaemias and lymphomas. 

A cancer may be classed as rare if: 

  • It affects a small number of people
  • Starts in an unusual part of the body
  • It’s an unusual type of cancer and needs special treatment

An example of a rare cancer is thymus gland cancer. The thymus gland is located between your lungs and behind your breastbone. It makes white blood cells called T lymphocytes.

How are rare cancers diagnosed? 

If you have a rare cancer, it may be difficult to diagnose. You may need to have more tests than people with more common cancers. These may include:

  • A biopsy – a sample of tissue is taken from the affected area
  • Blood tests 
  • CT, PET or MRI scans 

Your consultant will use the results from these tests to diagnose your cancer and work out the best treatment for you.

How are rare cancers treated? 

At The London Clinic, we have a number of world-leading consultants in rare cancers, such as cancer of the thymus gland. 

If you have a rare cancer, your consultant will plan your treatment with an expert multidisciplinary team who are experienced in your particular type of cancer.  

When they plan your treatment, the main things they’ll think about are:

  • The type and size of your cancer and whether it has spread
  • Your general health
  • National treatment guidelines for your cancer (if available)

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