Oesophageal Cancer Awareness Month

February marks Oesophageal Cancer Awareness Month. Oesophageal cancer is a priority for Guts UK Charity, as this cancer has been over-looked for decades. Discover how you can help save lives, and empower people to seek help sooner. Together, we can improve oesophageal cancer survival rates.

Cancer of the oesophagus (also known as the gullet) is the 8th most common cancer worldwide.

Like other digestive cancers, oesophageal cancer has been underfunded for decades. Guts UK exists to change that.

Cheryle’s Oesophageal Cancer Story

“I started to get pain when swallowing and chest pain. I had a cold at the time and a sore throat, so at first I wasn’t too worried…”. Read Cheryle’s story here.

Cheryle is at a rave, dancing, with one arm up in the air. She is smiling and wears a dogtooth print vest top and black framed glasses. The photo is cropped from her waist upwards.

Why is awareness of oesophageal cancer so important?

Oesophageal cancer has been misunderstood and underfunded for decades. In the UK, we’ve made huge strides forward in survival rates for cancers such as breast, or prostate, but oesophageal cancer hasn’t seen that same investment. Guts UK Charity exists to change that.

NHS data shows that 20% of oesophageal cancer cases were diagnosed at emergency settings, like A&E. This is very high, compared to 2.7% of breast cancer cases, and 7.8% of prostate cancer cases being diagnosed at emergency settings. This shows that people are being diagnosed at much later stages, when the cancer is harder to treat, and harder to fight.

Guts UK is dedicated to:

  • Raising awareness of the under-recognised symptoms of oesophageal cancer, empowering people to seek help sooner.
  • Funding life-saving research into oesophageal cancer, giving people a fighting chance.
  • Providing expert information to patients and families affected by oesophageal cancer. Knowledge is power.

Steven’s Oesophageal Cancer Story

“My GP told me, ‘This could be nothing, but it also could be cancer’. Cancer had never once crossed our minds, so I was in complete shock”. Read Steven’s story here.

Imagine if a bag of your breath could earlier diagnose cancer?

Katja, Guts UK's oesophageal cancer researcher is smiling.Guts UK is proudly funding just that! Dr Katja Christodoulou is discovering whether a breath test can be developed to pick up oesophageal cancer earlier, using just a bag of breath.

“We are further developing a breath test to pick up oesophageal cancer in the early stages, when it is more likely to be cured. This test looks for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are small gas molecules.

The breath test is a simple, cost-effective procedure that is easy for patients. We hope to pick up those who are at high risk of developing early oesophageal cancer, so we can prioritise these people for an endoscopy.”

If successful, this research would be rolled out to GP surgeries across the UK, and could save so many lives by diagnosing oesophageal cancer sooner. Discover more here.


Oesophageal cancer symptoms

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

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent indigestion or heartburn, that doesn’t go away with over-the-counter medication
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach, chest or back pain
  • A persistent cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexpected weight loss

Discover Guts UK’s detailed information on oesophageal cancer here.


Your oesophageal cancer stories

Rachael’s Story

“My diagnosis didn’t make sense to me, given my age and lifestyle. Thankfully, my cancer hadn’t spread and I already had a wonderful support network in place”.

Read Rachael’s story here.

Ian’s Story

“Knowing Dad was getting worse, I moved my wedding forward. He gave me away, and I will be forever grateful that my dad was at my wedding.”

Read Ian’s story here.


The Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce

Guts UK is a proud founding member of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce (LSCT). This taskforce was set up to double the survival rates of lung, liver, brain, pancreatic, stomach and oesophageal cancer. We are six organisations working together for maximum impact.

The average five-year survival for the above cancers stands at just 16%. We must do better.

Throughout the year, the LSCT works hard to change government policies to make these cancers a UK priority. We meet with MPs across the country to highlight the discrepancy in survival rates for these cancers and call for action.

We also raise awareness of these cancers in the press, to reach millions of people and raise awareness of the symptoms.

How you can help

Help us raise awareness of oesophageal cancer too by:

  • Following us on social media and sharing our awareness and information posts throughout February. You never know who we might reach and help together. FacebookLinkedInInstagramTwitter/X.
  • Share your own experience, or a loved ones experience with a feeding tube to your own circles, and on your own social media channels.
  • Fundraise for Guts UK Charity to help save lives, and give people diagnosed with oesophageal cancer a fighting chance.
  • Donate £3 per month to Guts UK Charity. For the price of a cuppa, you can change and save lives.
  • If you have your own awareness plans, don’t hesitate to contact us as we may be able to send you some magazines or posters!

Discover more: