Persistent heartburn possible cancer sign: PHE England

Public Health England has asked people to go to their doctor if they suffered persistent heartburn or experienced difficulty swallowing food for three weeks or more. People are being urged not to ignore heartburn, because it could be a sign of stomach or oesophageal cancer, BBC reported.

It said, most people were not aware of the symptoms. Stomach and oesophageal cancers were the fifth most common cancers in England and, according to PHE figures, around 12,900 people in England were diagnosed with these cancers each year and approximately 10,000 people died from the diseases annually.

However, about 950 lives could be saved each year if survival rates for oesophago-gastric cancers matched the best in Europe, oit added.

Currently, the UK had the highest rate of oesophageal cancer in men and women in the EU, which might be due to smoking, rising obesity levels, a lack of fruit and vegetables in the diet and regular alcohol consumption.

The earlier the cancers were diagnosed, the higher the chances of successful treatment.

That was the reason Public Health England's "Be Clear on Cancer" campaign was focused on how to spot the signs of oesophageal or stomach cancer.

The PHE survey revealed only one in two people would visit their doctor if they had heartburn most days for three weeks or more, Times of India reported.

Around 67 per cent of people diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers at the earliest stage survived for at least five years, but this figure dropped to around 3 per cent for those diagnosed at a late stage.

The survey of 1,046 people found 59 per cent of respondents were not aware that heartburn could be a sign of cancer, with just 15 per cent saying they were certain that it was a symptom.

Oesophago-gastric cancers were the fourth and fifth most common cause of cancer death in men and women respectively.

The UK, with the Netherlands, had the joint highest incidence rate of oesophageal cancer in males in the EU and the highest incidence rate of oesophageal cancer in females in the EU.

According to professor Kevin Fenton from PHE, people might be reluctant to visit their doctor about persistent heartburn, thinking that it was something they just had to live with, but heartburn most days for 3 weeks or more could be a sign of cancer.