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Rare Cancers In Adults: 7 Of The Rarest Types Of Cancer

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Nov 26, 2022

    Rare Cancers In Adults: 7 Of The Rarest Types Of Cancer

    Just like other diseases, there are certain types of cancer that are rarer than others. Compared to other types of cancer, the chances of a person developing these rare cancers in adults are extremely small.

    However, it’s still a good idea to be aware of these cancers as early prevention and detection can save lives.

    What Makes a Cancer “Rare”?

    First off, we need to define what rare cancers in adults are. Cancer is considered to be rare when it only affects around 6 in 100,000 persons in a year1. This is in contrast with other forms of cancer, such as lung cancer or breast cancer, which affect hundreds of thousands of people every year.

    It is also estimated that about 13% of all cancers diagnosed in patients aged 20 and older are considered to be rare2.

    Rare forms of cancer can sometimes be difficult to treat. Because of the rarity of these cancers, not a lot of doctors have experience dealing with them. Moreover, some types of rare cancers can also be extremely hard to detect, which makes diagnosis and treatment challenging.

    However, just because a type of cancer is rare, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be treated. Some of these rare cancers can be addressed through modern forms of treatment, and patients can have a fairly positive prognosis.

    7 Rare Cancers in Adults

    Here are 7 rare cancers in adults that you need to be aware of:

    Lip Cancer

    This type of cancer occurs when the cells on the lips grow uncontrollably and start to form tumors3. Lip cancer can also be known as cancer of the mouth.

    Risk factors associated with lip cancer include smoking, drinking alcohol, as well as sun exposure.

    The symptoms of lip cancer include mouth sores that don’t heal, as well as a lump or growth on the lips.

    Tongue Cancer

    Another one of the rarer types of cancers in adults is tongue cancer. As the name suggests, this type of cancer mainly affects a person’s tongue. It can start in either the mouth, or at the back of the throat where the base of the tongue is located.

    In terms of treatment, surgery to remove the cancerous tissue is one possible option. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, as well as targeted drug therapy are also used to treat tongue cancer4.

    Peritoneal Cancer

    The peritoneum is the membrane that lines a person’s abdominal cavity. Its main purpose is to support and protect the organs in the abdomen. It also contains nerves, blood vessels, and parts of the lymphatic system.

    Just like other organs, the peritoneum can develop cancer. Interestingly, this type of cancer looks and acts similarly to ovarian cancer5. This is because some of the cells of the peritoneum and the ovaries are similar, so the symptoms of these cancers can manifest in the same way.

    Tracheal Cancer

    This is another type of rare cancers in adults. Tracheal cancer that forms primarily in the trachea can be pretty rare; it’s much more common for tumors from another organ to metastasize or spread to the trachea6.

    The biggest risk factor for tracheal cancer is smoking. Smoking increases the risk of mouth cancers significantly.

    Urethral Cancer

    Urethral cancer, as the name suggests, is a type of cancer affecting the urethra. Among urological cancers, urethral cancer is considered to be the rarest type.

    It’s still not known what exactly causes urethral cancer. But there are risk factors that increases the likelihood of developing this type of cancer. This includes the human papillomavirus or HPV, sexually transmitted diseases, smoking, chronic swelling, and infection of the urethra7.

    This type of cancer can affect both men and women.

    Eye Cancer

    Eye cancer is a fairly rare type of cancer. This form usually affects the outer parts of the eye, particularly the eyelid, but it can also affect the eyeball. However, these cases are even rarer8.

    Just like other forms of cancer, treatment can include surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy.

    Male Breast Cancer

    Men can also develop breast cancer, though it’s much rarer when compared to women9. Because men also have breasts, the types of symptoms of breast cancer in women are also similar to those of men.

    In terms of treatment, the forms of treatment used for female breast cancer are the same for male breast cancer.

    Learn more about Other Cancers here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Nov 26, 2022

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