Be Clear on Cancer campaign to raise awareness that ongoing heartburn can be a sign of cancer

A ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign launches today in Liverpool urging people to visit their doctor if they have heartburn most days for three weeks or more, as this can be a sign of oesophageal or stomach cancer.

The latest data reveals around 138 people in Liverpool are diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers each year.

Dr Sandra Davies, Director of Public Health, Liverpool City Council said: “Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer can save lives. Heartburn most days for three weeks or more could be a sign of cancer as could food feeling like it’s sticking in your throat when you swallow. I would urge anyone experiencing these symptoms to seek medical help.

“The chances are it’s nothing serious but finding it early makes it more treatable and early diagnosis and treatment of cancer can save lives.”

The campaign launch coincides with results of a new survey commissioned by Public Health England, which reveals that nationally, only 1 in 2 people (55%) would visit their doctor if they experience the above symptom.

The most recent data has revealed that in Liverpool around 138 people are diagnosed with oesophageal or stomach cancer each year 0 and approximately 108 people die from these diseases annually.

Early diagnosis of oesophageal or stomach cancer (also known as oesophago-gastric cancers) is crucial and means treatment is more likely to be successful. Nationally, around 67% of people diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers at the earliest stage survive for at least five years. This figure drops to around 3% for those diagnosed at a late stage.

According to the survey, 59% of respondents did not know that heartburn could be a sign of cancer with just 15% saying they were certain that it is a symptom.2

Another symptom highlighted by the campaign is that of difficulty swallowing food. Here the survey found that 70% did not know food sticking in the throat could be a sign of cancer and just 13% of those surveyed said they were sure it is a symptom.2

Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, explains the importance of this awareness activity: “People may be reluctant to visit their doctor about persistent heartburn, thinking that it’s something they just have to live with. But heartburn most days for three weeks or more could be a sign of cancer. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chance of survival. If we’re to improve early diagnosis rates, we need to encourage people with symptoms to go to their doctor, which is what this latest Be Clear on Cancer campaign aims to do.”

It has been estimated that around 950 lives could be saved in England each year if our survival rates for oesophago-gastric cancers matched the best in Europe.

Of those diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers, more than 9 out of 10 people are over the age of 50 making this the target age group for the campaign.

The four-week campaign will see adverts running nationally throughout England on TV, radio and in the press.

A roadshow is also being held at Belle Vale Shopping Centre on February 18th and 19th.

For further information about the signs and symptoms of oesophageal and stomach cancers, please visit www.nhs.uk/ogcancer