Oesophageal Cancer Awareness Month 2022

1st February 2022

February is Oesophageal Cancer Awareness Month. Oesophageal Cancer is the 9th most common cancer worldwide, and Guts UK is proud to be raising awareness, funding research and providing expert information on oesophageal cancer.

Guts UK is a founding member of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, which represents 6 of the least survivable cancers (liver, pancreatic, stomach, brain, lung and oesophageal). The taskforce aims to increase the survivability of these cancers to 28% by 2029.

NHS data last year shows that the proportion of oesophageal cancer cases diagnosed in an emergency setting like A&E was far higher than for more survivable cancers. Over 20% of oesophageal cancer cases were diagnosed at emergency, while just 2.7% of breast and 7.8% of prostate cancer cases were.

The early symptoms of oesophageal cancer can be vague, but making people aware of these symptoms is crucial to achieve earlier diagnosis, giving people a fighting chance.

What are the early symptoms of oesophageal cancer?

If you experience any of the below symptoms, you should see your GP to discuss further:

  • If you’ve experienced heartburn for 3 weeks or longer.
  • If your heartburn persists even after avoiding trigger foods and changing your lifestyle.
  • If food gets stuck when you swallow.
  • If you experience persistent indigestion.

Jennie’s Story

When Jennie first started experiencing persistent indigestion, she rang her GP to arrange an appointment.

“My GP is fantastic, but she looked at me, saw a fit, active, slim non-smoker and didn’t immediately recognise the symptoms. I didn’t fit the usual profile.” Jennie’s GP prescribed her a month supply of PPIs (proton pump inhibitors, reducing stomach acid production). However, Jennie’s symptoms continued. After she struggled to swallow her Christmas dinner, she knew she had to ask for a gastroscopy.

Jennie’s oesophageal cancer diagnosis was still a shock, but her persistence about her symptoms meant she was diagnosed at an early stage.

“Almost a decade on from having oesophageal cancer, I’m still here. I hope this helps to give other people and their families some hope” – Jennie. 

Guts UK's research has the capacity to save lives. Your donations make it possible. Help the UK get to grips with guts by donating £3 a month today.

Dr Jamel's oesophageal cancer research funded by Guts UK

Guts UK is funding Dr Sara Jamel’s research who is looking at the possibility of a ‘breath-test’ to diagnose oesophageal cancer.

Currently people with Barrett’s oesophagus have a routine endoscopy test where a small camera on a thin flexible tube looks at the lining of the oesophagus. The main research question is whether the cell changes in Barrett’s oesophagus can be detected by testing the breath of people with the condition. This will provide an easy and cost-effective way to identify people at high risk of having oesophageal cancer, who should then have close monitoring to detect any signs. If successful, this test could save lives by diagnosing oesophageal cancer earlier, when it is easier to treat.

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