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

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A ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign launches today in East Anglia and Essex urging people from the area 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 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 East Anglia and Essex around 1028 people are diagnosed with oesophageal or stomach cancer each yearand approximately 793 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.

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.

Dr Robert Lindfield, Consultant in Healthcare Public Health, Public Health England, Anglia and Essex 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 local roadshow will also be visiting the Guineas Centre in Newmarket on 28th and 29th January and the Harvey Centre in Harlow on 30th and 31st January to raise awareness of oesophago-gastric cancers.

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