Plea to spot cancer symptoms

North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group - chairman Dr David Kelly. (D532C309)
North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group - chairman Dr David Kelly. (D532C309)

People are being urged to take heartburn seriously because it could be a sign of cancer.

A health campaign is warning people that if they have persistent heartburn or difficulty swallowing food for three weeks or more then they should go to their doctor.

The symptoms could be a sign of stomach or oesophageal cancer, according to watchdog Public Health England (PHE).

PHE launched its Be Clear On Cancer campaign because it said most people were not aware of the symptoms of the cancers, which are the fifth most common cancers in the country.

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing at PHE, 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 campaign aims to do.”

Figures released by PHE show that around 12,900 people in England are diagnosed with these cancers every year.

They also show that around 10,000 people die from the diseases annually.

But the organisation said around 950 lives could be saved each year if survival rates for oesophago-gastric cancers matched the best in Europe.

North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group chairman Dr David Kelly said: “I would urge anyone who has symptoms for three weeks or more to go and see their GP.

“In most cases, there will be nothing seriously wrong, but getting an early diagnosis can make cancer easier to treat.”