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Heartburn 'possible sign of cancer'

27 January 2015 09:15

Having heartburn most days for three weeks or more can be a sign of cancer, according to a health campaign.

Having heartburn most days for three weeks or more can be a sign of cancer, according to a health campaign.

People are being urged not to ignore heartburn as it could be a sign of cancer if the condition persists.

The chances are it will be nothing serious, but people who have heartburn for three weeks are being encouraged to see their GP to either put their mind at rest or seek treatment at the earliest opportunity if cancer is diagnosed.

The Be Clear on Cancer campaign has been launched with the warning that persistent heartburn could be a sign of oesophageal or stomach cancer.

But a poll conducted to coincide with the launch revealed only half (55%) would seek advice from their doctor if they had heartburn most days over a three-week period.

Early diagnosis for such cancers is crucial for treatment to be a success, with two-thirds surviving for at least five years if it is diagnosed at the earliest stage, while only 3% do so if it is diagnosed at a late date.

With cancer treatments improving, it is becoming possible for patients who feel up to it to lead a more normal life, including taking a holiday. For those with the disease who are considering a trip abroad, they can ensure peace of mind by getting cancer travel insurance.

Oesophageal and stomach cancer statistics

There are around 12,900 new cases of cancer of the stomach or oesophagus, which is more commonly known as the gullet or food pipe, every year in England The two cancers cause more than 10,200 deaths every year While men and women can get the cancers, they are more common in men and are also more likely in people over 50 The new poll found more than half (59%) did not know heartburn could be a sign of cancer Among the other symptoms is difficulty swallowing food The two cancers, also known as o esophago-gastric cancers, are the fourth most common cause of cancer death in men and the fifth most common cause for women with cancer.

What the NHS says

As the campaign suggests, early diagnosis is the key focus for the NHS which wants people to take action if they have an ongoing heartburn problem.

Sean Duffy, who is national clinical director for cancer at NHS England, said: "Patients with possible early signs and symptoms should visit their GP so where necessary they can be referred for tests, and treatment can start quickly."