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Heartburn could be early indicator for cancer

A UK public health campaign is urging people to not ignore heartburn as it could be a sign of stomach or oesophageal cancer.

Heartburn could be early indicator for cancer

If you suffer from persistent heartburn or have difficulty swallowing food for weeks at a time you should see your doctor.

That is the message from Public Health England which is urging people to seek medical attention if they are concerned.

Stomach and oesophageal cancers are the fifth most common cancers in the UK which 12,900 people diagnosed every year and 10,000 deaths annually.

Smoking, obesity, poor diet and regular alcohol consumption are just some of the factors responsible for the UK having the highest rate of oesophageal cancer in the EU.

But 950 lives could be saved if survival rates for such gastric cancers were improved to meet the best European standard, the PHE says.

The issue, as with many cancers, is early detection improves the treatment success and ultimate survival rates for sufferers.

However, most people are un aware of the early symptoms and warning signs of such cancers.

This is why Public Health England has launched a campaign called “Be Clear on Cancer”, which focuses on how to spot the early signs of oesophageal or stomach cancer, such as:

  • indigestion on and off for three weeks or more
  • feeling food sticking in your throat when you swallow
  • losing weight for no obvious reason
  • trapped wind and frequent burping
  • feeling full very quickly when eating
  • nausea or vomiting
  • pain or discomfort in top of stomach

“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,” Professor Michael Griffin, professor of surgery at the Northern oesophago-gastric unit, told reporters.

People should not feel they are bothering their GP unnecessarily, Griffin added.

“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.”

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