Persistent heartburn patients urged to see GP

ONLY 55 per cent of patients have said they would visit their GP with persistent heartburn over three weeks – a potential sign of stomach or oesophageal cancer.

This is the headline result from a survey commissioned by Public Health England and published to coincide with a new national campaign: Be Clear on Cancer.

According to the survey findings, 59 per cent of respondents did not know that heartburn could be a sign of cancer and only 1 in 2 people (55 per cent) would visit their doctor if they had heartburn most days for three weeks or more. The survey also found that 70 per cent did not know that difficulty swallowing could be a sign of cancer.

Early diagnosis of oesophageal or stomach cancer is crucial with around 67 per cent of people diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers at the earliest stage surviving for at least 5 years. The figure drops to around 3 per cent for those diagnosed at a late stage.

Oesophago-gastric cancers are the fourth and fifth most common cause of cancer death in men and women respectively. It has been estimated that around 950 lives could be saved in England each year if survival rates for oesophago-gastric cancers matched the best in Europe.

Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said: "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."

The four-week campaign will see adverts running nationally throughout England on TV, radio and in the press with events taking place at a number of shopping centres across the country.

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