Who are you?

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Rare Cancer Diagnosis

I have a cancer diagnosis

If you have a cancer diagnosis, please start here.

Rare Cancer Supporter

I'm a supporter

If you’re a friend or family member of someone with cancer, a nurse, an oncologist, an activist, a fundraiser or you’d simply like to help, please start here.

Rare Cancer Researcher

I'm a researcher

If you are interested in setting up a research project or clinical trial aimed at improving the care people affected by rare cancer receive, please start here.

Our Mission

We believe that people with rare cancer have the right to live better, longer lives. We make this happen by bringing people together to create opportunities to accelerate research.

Rare cancer affects more than 70,000 people per year in the UK: more than 1 in 5 of the total. Sadly, about two thirds will die from their disease within 5 years- as compared with under half for more common cancers. We believe that this is unacceptable and have set up RareCan to work with people affected by rare cancer to help researchers find better treatments.

Frequently Asked Questions

We focus on cancers that fall outside of the ‘big four’, so if you have any type of cancer other than lung, breast, bowel, or prostate cancer, then becoming a RareCan member might be right for you.

Even if you do have one of the ‘big four’ common cancers, there are rare sub-types of these that are considered to be rare. If you’re unsure, then please do still join us – signing up only takes a couple of minutes and you can leave at any time.

People often talk about cancer as if it is a single disease but in fact there are many types. It can occur at any age, even before birth, and affect just about any part of the body. Looking under the microscope doctors can distinguish more than 200 different forms of cancer but some of these are much more common than others. “Common” and “rare” are obviously relative terms but most specialists define a rare cancer as one which occurs in less than 60 people per 100,000 each year ie about 4,000 people each year in the UK alone.

Because they affect most people, most cancer research is done on the four most common types of cancer: breast, prostate, colon and lung. Although much needs to be done to improve the way that these cancers are diagnosed and treated, far less is known about the rare forms of cancer which means that it is often difficult for doctors to give the best advice and prescribe the best forms of treatment to people affected by them.

We have a recent blog post, ‘Is my Cancer Rare?‘, that tries to answer this question, and we have also started a list of rare cancers

Cancer Research UK also has an excellent website which has an alphabetical list of cancer types linked to further information about their frequency https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type

For research to be reliable it needs to be undertaken on enough people to be sure that observations aren’t occurring purely by chance. Finding enough people willing to take part in research with a certain type of cancer is relatively easy for the common cancers but for rare cancer it can be very difficult as they may live anywhere in the United Kingdom 

Visit our FAQ page for more frequently asked questions.

Is my Cancer Rare?

This is one of the most common questions we get asked by potential RareCan members.

There are a few different definitions of ‘rare cancer’ and it depends who you ask. One of our most recent blog posts attempts to explain what we at RareCan mean by the term ‘rare cancer’.

Please click here to read it – Is my cancer rare?

We have also started a list of rare cancers.

Is my cancer rare news

The RareCan BioResource

Donating your samples for medical research

Joining RareCan gives you the ability to donate your tissue samples to the BioResource for medical research. Please note that signing up to RareCan does not commit you to donating tissue and you can cancel your membership at any time. Click the button below to find out more about our BioResource.

RareCan News

Latest Posts

Conversations about Rare Cancer

We want to ignite conversations around the issues that face the rare cancer community and connect with others who want to innovate in this space. We will be talking to patients, parents, researchers and other stakeholders about how we can drive forward initiatives, like RareCan, which are set to drive sustainable progress at speed and at scale.

The RareCan Podcast

Together we can make Rare Cancers Curable

What our members say


RareCan will drive more research into rare cancers, and hopefully help to make new treatments available more quickly.
Vicky Rockingham
If you are diagnosed with a rare cancer, joining RareCan to attract more researchers to your needs is a 'no brainer'.
Jayne Bressington