Access Point happy to have been involved in important NHS roadshow.


'Be Clear on Cancer' campaign highlights links between heartburn and cancer



New research reveals only 1 in 2 people (55%) would visit their doctor if they had heartburn most days for 3 weeks or more.



A national ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign is launched today (26 January 2015) urging people to visit their doctor if they have heartburn most days for 3 weeks or more, as this can be a sign of oesophageal or stomach cancer.


The campaign launch coincides with results of a new survey commissioned by Public Health England, which reveals only 1 in 2 people (55%) would visit their doctor if they had heartburn most days for 3 weeks or more.

Early diagnosis of oesophageal or stomach cancer (also known as oesophago-gastric cancers) is crucial and means treatment is more likely to be successful. Around 67% of people diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers at the earliest stage survive for at least 5 years. This figure drops to around 3% for those diagnosed at a late stage.


According to the survey findings, 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.


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.


Latest figures released by Public Health England reveal that around 12,900 people in England are diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers each year, with approximately 10,200 people dying from these diseases annually. This equates to 28 people dying from either oesophageal or stomach cancer every day.


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 our survival rates for oesophago-gastric cancers matched the best in Europe.


The UK, with the Netherlands, has the joint highest incidence rate of oesophageal cancer in males in the European Union and the highest incidence rate of oesophageal cancer in females in the European Union. This may be due to smoking, low consumption of fruit and vegetables over time, rising obesity levels and consuming alcohol on a regular basis.


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.


Baroness Gail Rebuck, Chair of Penguin Random House UK, lost her husband Philip Gould to oesophageal cancer 3 years ago:

I understand from personal experience the devastating impact that oesophageal cancer can have. I lost my husband Philip Gould to this cancer in 2011 when he was just 61. I personally want to raise awareness of the symptoms and how important it is to go to the doctor if you have them. What we see from the statistics is the earlier the cancer is caught, the better the chances of survival.


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 3 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.


Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England, said:

Early diagnosis of cancer is absolutely critical to improving survival. Part of this is helping people understand what symptoms to look out for, which is why campaigns like this are so important. 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. Early diagnosis is a key focus for us and will form part of the NHS’s new 5 year strategy for cancer, currently being developed by an independent taskforce.


Professor Michael Griffin, Professor of Surgery, Northern Oesophago-gastric Unit, said:

Around 10,200 people in England die from either oesophageal or stomach cancer each year. Earlier diagnosis makes curative treatment possible and could potentially save hundreds of lives. Cancer campaigns like this, which encourage people to speak to their doctor if they have heartburn most days for 3 weeks or more, are vital. You won’t be wasting your doctor’s time. You will either get reassurance that it isn’t cancer, or if it is, you will have a better chance of successful treatment.


The 4-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. For further information about the signs and symptoms of oesophageal and stomach cancers, please visit nhs.uk/ogcancer.